Issue 25 of The Lewisham Ledger

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Darcy's dreams Why this local man is one to watch PAGES 10, 11 Striking a cord Kellie Shirley’s important campaign PAGE 9 Fabulous foodie Meet Melissa Thompson PAGE 17 The Lewisham Ledger ISSUE 25 | FEBRUARY/MARCH 2023 A FREE NEWSPAPER FOR LEWISHAM entertainment That's Forest Hill favourite For Your Eyes Only PAGE 18

Welcome to The Lewisham Ledger, a free newspaper for the borough.

Our cover star for this issue is Gulam Charania, proprietor of Forest Hill business For Your Eyes Only – one of the last remaining film rental shops in the UK. We asked Gulam how he came to take over the shop, which films are most in demand and more on page 18.

Also featuring on our front page is Kellie Shirley, who soap fans might recognise as former EastEnders character Carly Wicks. Kellie tells us about growing up locally, what she loves about Lewisham and her important role as an ambassador for blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan on page nine.

We also caught up with Darcy Thomas, whose inspiring and impactful projects have included fronting a Bafta-winning documentary on the environmental damage caused by the trainer industry. Find out more on page 10.

Also featured on the cover is local foodie Melissa Thompson, who shares the story behind her new Jamaican cookbook Motherland on page 17.

The next edition of the Ledger will be published in April. If you're a local business or organisation who is interested in advertising with us please email lewishamledger@gmail. com to find out more.

We're always looking for editorial ideas too, so if you have a story with a local link that you think our readers might be interested in, please drop us a line at the same address.

We hope you enjoy the issue!

Right time for Sister Midnight

A rundown former working men’s club in Catford is set to be given a new lease of life as a music destination and community cafe.

Sister Midnight – a non-profit group on a mission to create Lewisham’s first community-owned live music venue –has taken over the Brookdale Club in Catford town centre.

Led by Lenny Watson, Sophie Farrell and Lottie Pendlebury, the space, which is located just off Catford Broadway next door to the Black Cat pub, will be renamed Sister Midnight.

The news follows the trio’s previous campaign, which saw them attempt to buy the freehold of the Ravensbourne Arms in Ladywell.

Despite raising £260,000 through community investment and donations –and garnering an impressive 800-plus investors – the owners of the disused pub were unwilling to sell for a price that Sister Midnight considered fair, leading the women to look for an alternative venue.

They managed to find a “meanwhile space” in Catford in the form of the Brookdale Club – and 99% of the original campaign backers were keen to continue their support.

Working alongside Lewisham Council, with support from London’s night czar and City Hall’s Culture and Community Spaces at Risk team, they now believe they have secured the perfect site.

Amy Lamé, London’s night czar, said:

“I’m absolutely thrilled that Sister Midnight has secured a location to create Lewisham’s first community-owned live music venue.

“I am proud that the mayor’s team have worked alongside these remarkable women to drive forward their vision and I will continue to support them in creating this exciting new venue as we build a better London for everyone.”

Mayor of Lewisham Damien Egan said: “I’m delighted we’ve helped Sister Midnight to secure this space and establish Lewisham’s first-ever communityowned live music venue – a fantastic

legacy for our year as London Borough of Culture 2022.

“This will provide a valuable meanwhile use for the building which can be enjoyed by all the community, support our local arts and music scene and help grow our night-time economy. I hope this will serve as an important stepping stone towards a permanent home for Sister Midnight.”

Sister Midnight’s new site will offer a private outdoor yard, a 250-person capacity grassroots live music venue, a community cafe and an area for rehearsal, recording and artists’ studios on the upper floors.

Sister Midnight said it will remain a democratically run, community-owned business, giving its community a voice and a say in how things are done. Profit will be reinvested into the venue.

The group’s Lenny Watson said: “We’ve faced some pretty huge challenges with this project, but we’re determined to see this through. Securing a space was always set to be the biggest obstacle, but with Lewisham Council’s support we’ve managed to achieve above and beyond what we expected; securing a seven-year rent-free lease on a space that meets all of our needs and more.”

Sophie Farrell added: “The new site has so much potential to become a transformational cultural space for our local community. We can’t wait to get stuck into bringing this building back into use again.”

Cover photograph

Gulam Charania by Julia Hawkins

Editors Mark McGinlay, Kate White

Creative directors Andy Keys, Marta Pérez Sainero

Type designers

Photographer Lima Charlie

Sub-editor Jack Aston

Contributors Lawrence Diamond, Julia Hawkins, Miranda Knox, Luke G Williams

Marketing and social media

Mark McGinlay

Editorial and advertising

Above: Lottie Pendlebury, Lenny Watson and Sophie Farrell. Below: the Brookdale Club
Follow us The Lewisham Ledger @lewishamledger @lewishamledger @lewishamledger

The Wright stuff

Former footballer and media personality Ian Wright donned a hard hat to visit his old primary school Turnham Academy, as building work began on a new football pitch where young people from across Lewisham will have the chance to train and follow in the footsteps of the local legend.

The facility will be named the Rocky and Wrighty Arena in honour of Ian and the late David “Rocky” Rocastle, his much-loved friend, who kicked off their passion for football together as primaryaged children, honing their skills on the school’s concrete pitches before eventually playing alongside each other at Arsenal.

The small-sided 3G football pitch will open later this year and deliver a muchneeded grassroots sports facility in the heart of south-east London, offering the community a space to play sport and boost local pride.

While the pitch is on Turnham Academy grounds, access will be shared with a local football group with 17 teams including a girls’ side, while in the evenings Millwall in the Community will

Turnham Academy secured funding for the pitch with support from EA Sports, the Premier League, the FA and the government’s Football Foundation. It is a tribute to Ian and David, who grew up on the Honor Oak Estate where the school is based, and will feature a new mural by local artist Lionel Stanhope.

Richard Piggford, headteacher of Turnham Academy, said: “Many of our existing community partnerships will benefit greatly from this facility, and we cannot thank Ian enough for his passion

and desire to make this project happen.

From our very first call, in which this was just a bit of a dream, Ian has driven the project and made our dream become a reality.”

Ian said: “The Rocky and Wrighty Arena is here, right behind Rocastle Road. It’s here for the school, it’s here for the Honor Oak community and the local clubs that will have access.

“I hope the kids at my old school and in my community love every minute they get on this new pitch. I’m excited

that so many girls and boys will benefit. There’ll be Premier League Kicks, walking football, Wildcats, Millwall Lionesses and Millwall Romans LGBTQ+ sessions, run by the Millwall Community Trust. And programmes for disability groups, thanks to a partnership with South London and Maudsley NHS Foundation Trust.

“It’ll also be the training ground for Hillyfielders FC mini soccer teams, who help girls and boys develop through football.”

Footballing legend Ian Wright at his old school in Brockley
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Diversity in Deptford

The annual Deptford Literature Festival, organised by Spread the Word, will take place on 18 March.

Celebrating the diversity and creativity of Deptford and Lewisham through words, stories and performance, the festival will feature a jam-packed programme of talented writers, artists and organisations. Most events are free to attend and there will be free tickets for paid events for Lewisham residents on low incomes.

Spread the Word director Ruth Harrison said: “With over 30 events happening in-person and online across the festival day – from talks to readings, workshops, walks and happenings as well as stalls from local publishers and booksellers and author signings – we’re looking forward to coming together and celebrating the amazing writing talent we have and the creativity of Deptford and Lewisham’s communities.”

Writers and artists taking part include Deptford resident Caleb Femi, the internationally renowned poet and artist, who will be hosting a brand new experience with the SLOGhouse Collective at the Albany.

Crime novelists Nadine Matheson, Adam Simcox and Lara Thompson will discuss crime fiction and place, while local publisher Fitzcarraldo Editions will be represented by short-story authors Vanessa Onwuemezi and Anna Wood.

A national awards ceremony will take place online, with the winner of the inaugural Disabled Poets Prize announced at the festival. Lewisham resident Jamie

Hale will reveal the results and introduce the winning poets to read from their work. Local writers Daniel Sluman and Khairani Barokka will also host a reading and talk about disability poetics.

Writers Carinya Sharples and Laurie Bolger will offer drop-in creative writing workshops for adults, children and families, while inclusive children’s bookshop Round Table Books will host a

day of free family activities for children, young people and their parents and carers. Taking place at Deptford Lounge children’s library, it will feature authors and illustrators including Dapo Adeola, Funmbi Omotayo and Ebinehita Iyere.

A host of other events will explore this year’s festival themes of nature, climate and food. Tice Cin, author of the lauded novel Keeping the House will host

a workshop on writing and food, while Laura Barker and LiLi K Bright will lead nature and climate-based writing activities in Brookmill Park.

Local editor and writer Sara Jafari will publish a special edition of Token magazine featuring short stories and creative non-fiction by writers of colour based on the themes. Copies will be free to pick up during the festival.

Clockwise from above: Caleb Femi, Nadine Matheson and Jamie Hale




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Oooh, fashion!

The Museum of London Docklands has unveiled plans for a major exhibition ti tled Fashion City: How Jewish London ers Shaped Global Style.

For the first time, it will uncover the major contribution of Jewish designers in making London an iconic fashion city. Featuring clothes and textiles, oral his tories, objects, ephemera and photog raphy, Fashion City will use the places and spaces of London to weave together individual stories with a broader social history.

One of the items it is hoping to display is a dress designed by Mr Fish, which was worn by David Bowie on the album cover of The Man Who Sold the World

The photo shown here – plus the shot on the album cover – were both taken at Haddon Hall, which was located at 42 Southend Road near to Beckenham Place Park. Bowie lived at Flat 7 from October 1969 to May 1972. The photo graph shows him standing in the garden of the house, which was demolished in the early 1980s.

Mr Fish, who had a boutique in May fair, also designed Sean Connery’s 007 shirts and was a leading figure in the “peacock” fashion revolution of the 1960s. He shunned the concept of gen dered clothing by revitalising menswear staples and creating innovative silhou ettes.

Known for inventing the “kipper tie”, his distinctive tailoring with its bold col ours and luxurious fabrics was worn by stars including  Jimi Hendrix, Muham mad Ali and Michael Caine.

Fashion City will run from 13 October to 14 April 2024

A Lewisham man has been named by the National Football League’s NFL Academy as one of three UK players who have been signed to Division One colleges and will play National Collegiate Athletic Association (NCAA) college football.

The trio includes 19-year-old Kofi Taylor-Barrocks from Lewisham, who will join University of Colorado Boulder under the tutelage of legendary American ootball coach Deion Sanders, otherwise known as Coach Prime.

The NFL Academy, which was founded in 2019 and operates full-time out of Loughborough College and Loughborough University, uses American football to create life-changing opportunities or talented athletes.

Kofi, who was one of the first 90 students to enter the academy, developed his love of football at the Kent Exiles American football club. A fast, no-nonsense linebacker, he received 10 Division One offers as a result of his role as the beating heart of the  NFL Academy defence.

Initially Kofi committed to Jackson State University but with Coach Prime moving to Colorado and advocating for the Londoner to follow him, he has now decided to team up with Sanders in the Centennial State.

Kofi said: “I’m excited to be heading to Boulder, a dream of mine has been accomplished. I’m excited to be a Buffalo and I am just ready to get over there and finally be a part of the family.”

Bronze for Bellingham boxer Recognition for Rosamund

A statue of legendary boxer Sir Henry Cooper has been unveiled in Bellingham – bringing to a close a decade-long campaign by the London Ex-Boxers Association (LEBA) to have one of the nation’s greatest sporting heroes immortalised in bronze.

A large crowd gathered in December to see the statue of the former British, European and Commonwealth heavyweight champion officially unveiled by John Conteh, the former light-heavyweight WBC world champion. It is located on the corner of Bromley Road and Randlesdown Road.

The plan for a statue of Sir Henry –known to all and sundry as “Our ’Enry” – was launched shortly after his death in 2011, when sculptor Carl Payne contacted his friend Tom Mellis from LEBA to suggest the idea. Tom put Carl in touch with LEBA secretary Ray Caulfield and a fundraising campaign began soon after.

What followed was an at times tortuous and frustrating 10 years during which Ray, Carl and LEBA were – at various times – thwarted by bureaucracy, administrative indifference and even the theft of body parts from the statue while it was being made.

“It certainly hasn’t been easy but now it finally feels like a monkey is off my back,” Ray admitted to the Lewisham Ledger


The Bellingham location of the statue is particularly apt. Although Lambethborn Cooper was initially raised in Camberwell, in 1939 his family moved to a council house in Bellingham on Farmstead Road.

He began his illustrious boxing career as an amateur at the Bellingham Boxing Club and used the Fellowship Inn – now splendidly restored to its former glory – as his training base ahead of his legendary 1963 fight at Wembley against Cassius Clay (later, of course, known as Muhammad Ali).

Matt Christie, editor of Boxing News, the world’s longest running boxing magazine, warmly welcomed the completion of the Cooper statue project, adding his own tribute to the late, great ’Enry.

“I’ll never forget interviewing Henry Cooper at his golf club in late 2010,” Matt told the Ledger. “We were regularly interrupted by people who wanted to shake his hand.

“I found the constant stream of people a little annoying, purely because the interview kept stopping and starting, but Henry embraced them all, particularly those who chose to shake his famous left hand rather than his right.

“He was a superstar in an age when true superstars were rare; immortalisation in the form of a statue is the least he deserved.”

Rosamund Adoo-Kissi-Debrah has been made a CBE for services to public health.

The local mum has been fighting to introduce the Clean Air (Human Rights) bill or “Ella’s law”, which is named after her daughter.

She said the CBE is an “absolute honour and recognition for the campaign”, adding: “Although I got the inquest victory, she [Ella] would be really, really proud that I just didn’t give up.”

Ella, who died in 2013 aged nine, was the first person to have air pollution listed as a cause of death at an inquest in the UK.

Boxing legend Sir Henry Cooper has been immortalised in bronze
Kofi’s football future
“Look at the photo of me with the statue and you’ll see how pleased I am. ‘Yes, it’s done!’ That’s how I felt!” Carl did not live to see the statue he sculpted be unveiled. The 52-year-old died last year after a short and sudden illness. However, his wife Georgina, son Leif and daughter Daisy were in attendance at the unveiling.
Supporting health and wellbeing for you, for your family – for life IN THE HEART OF BROCKLEY 020 8694 2714

Having grown up in Croydon and now a Lewisham resident of 10 years and counting, actress Kellie Shirley is a south Londoner through and through.

However, it was her role playing east Londoner Carly Wicks in BBC prime-time soap EastEnders in her early 20s that propelled her into the spotlight.

Since then Kellie has been extremely busy, with roles in Idris Elba’s award-winning comedy In the Long Run, Call the Midwife and Emmy-nominated Joe All Alone among others. In addition, in 2015 she became a mum of twins, Pearl and Louie, now seven.

And, when we speak in early December, Kellie is also seven months pregnant with her third, a boy, and shows no sign of slowing down as she strives to promote a slightly different role for blood cancer charity Anthony Nolan.

As an ambassador for the charity, which makes lifesaving connections between patients in need and people ready to donate their stem cells, Kellie hopes to raise awareness among expectant mums about the benefits of donating the umbilical cord, which is usually just thrown away, after birth.

Cord blood is the blood left in the placenta and umbilical cord, and it contains lots of stem cells that can be used in life-saving transplants or cell therapy for people with blood cancers and disorders.

While it’s relatively unheard of, it’s an incredibly simple act that can give someone with blood cancer a second chance of life.

It’s something Kellie did herself when she gave birth at King’s College Hospital, and something she hopes to do again when she gives birth for a second time.

“Even if this article gets one person to do it, it will save someone’s life and that’s amazing,” she says.

“It’s such a simple process. After giving birth a specially trained midwife will collect the placenta and cord. It’s amazing how something that’s usually thrown away can be so valuable and lifesaving.

“I recently met a guy called Alan, who was told his family weren’t a match for him and he didn’t have very long to live, and then he got in touch with Anthony Nolan and they suggested trying a cord blood transfusion and it saved his life.

“He’s back to work, he’s a dad – he’s alive. Meeting him spurred me on even more to try and raise awareness and get people thinking about it.”

Anthony Nolan collects cord blood in five hospitals in London, Manchester and Leicester.

They don’t get direct government funding so can only fund collection at a limited number of hospitals, and the NHS also has three collection sites. Collection only happens after birth, and it’s completely risk free for mothers and newborns.

Kellie says: “People often think it would hurt, but it doesn’t hurt you or your baby.”

One of the biggest advantages of using cord blood is donors and recipients don’t have to be an exact match, as the stem cells in cord blood aren’t so mature and can develop to suit their recipient, meaning it’s easier to find matches, and getting adult donations is a lengthy process.


cord campaign

It’s something Kellie found out about when she was starring in EastEnders.

She says: “One of the great things when I was on EastEnders was I got lots of offers from charities for a place to run the marathon for them.

“In 2008 Anthony Nolan offered me a spot and I was well up for doing that.

“I became really interested in what the charity was doing, and they took me to their labs in north London and showed me round and I met people whose lives had been saved after being diagnosed with blood cancer.

“I [also] went to the House of Commons and met Nick Clegg’s wife, Miriam González Durántez. She said in Spain where she’s from they don’t chuck away the cord blood at birth like they do in this country, because it saves people with blood cancer.

“I found it absolutely fascinating, so when I was pregnant with my twins I was going to have them at Lewisham,

but then I remembered you could donate cord blood at King’s. Their cord was used then to save a stranger’s life who’d had blood cancer and was given a second chance at life.

“I want to champion this and want more people to know about it, and I want more hospitals to think about doing it.”

Growing up in Croydon with her dad who worked as a coach at Crystal Palace Football Club and her nurse mum, Kellie knew from a young age that acting was the career for her.

She says: “I wanted to act from the age of about six or seven. There was a show on TV, Rod and Emu’s Pink Windmill Show, in the 80s and there was a character called Grotbags [played by the late Carol Lee Scott] who was a really scary witch.

“She was doing panto at Fairfield Halls and I went along to it, and then I found out she got paid to be on stage and I knew I wanted to do it too.”

She began at the National Youth Theatre and the Brit School, and her on-screen debut was in a docudrama called Smallpox aged 15, followed by the film Dr Jekyll and Mr Hyde in 2003. “I played the Julia Roberts part, except it wasn’t the Julia Roberts part, it was like the Croydon equivalent!” she laughs.

In 2006 she landed the role of Carly Wicks in EastEnders and went on to appear in over 200 episodes. “I was really young – I was 21 – when I started and I kind of took it for granted in a way. I worked really hard [but] if I was going into it now I’d have such a different headspace for it.

“It opened lots of doors for me but it also shut doors as well. You have a stigma attached to you when you’ve been in a soap, so it’s been a bit of a double-edged sword in many ways.

“Sometimes directors won’t see you because you’re seen as a soap actor, which is hard to shake, but on the plus side I was able to have enough money to buy a flat and how lucky am I to be able to do that in my 20s?

“People recognise me still from EastEnders, which is mad as it’s over 10 years since I was last on screen on EastEnders and I’ve done lots of other things since.

“I feel like I look really different now but it’s nice being recognised and it’s a really great place to learn your craft, without sounding like a w****r!

“The amount of dialogue you have to learn each week, the way they shoot on lots of different cameras… it was a really good way to learn.”

Since then she’s starred in a whole host of shows and films, but her role in the series In the Long Run, starring Idris Elba and Bill Bailey, is one she is particularly proud of.

She says: “We did three series of that and a Christmas special and it was all shot around south London.

“It’s set in the 80s so there’s perms, Babycham, shell suits and an amazing soundtrack. It was a really, really special job and I love doing comedy.”

Although Kellie lived in north London while filming EastEnders, south-east London – and Lewisham now specifically – is where she feels most at home.

She says: “There’s something about south London that just sings to my heart. I’m not far from Croydon and my mum and dad live round there still.

“I love Crystal Palace Football Club too as it’s where I spent a lot of my childhood and I like going to games. I just like south-east London. You get to go across the bridge over the Thames if you live in south London, and it’s such a beautiful view.”

For more information about signing up to Anthony Nolan, please visit donate-your-umbilical-cord

Even if this article gets one person to do it, it will save a life and that is amazing
Above: Kellie Shirley with Bill Bailey in Idris Elba's comedy In the Long Run
Former EastEnders star and local resident Kellie Shirley is hoping to raise awareness of how the simple act of donating your umbilical cord after birth can save a life

There’s a moment at the end of my chat with Darcy Thomas when I ask him if he wants to shout out any places in south-east London that are particularly special to him. For the first time in our engaging and enlightening conversation he’s lost for words. “Oh wow, you’ve thrown me in it, there’s just too many I want to mention. This is hard.”

It’s a little how I feel when trying to outline the many roles that the multitalented Darcy has taken on and excelled at over the years. Whether it’s as an actor, comedian, creative producer, director or Bafta-winning presenter, he has a highly impressive number of strings to his bow.

“People always say, ‘Jack of all trades, master of none’, but they forget the full quote ends, ‘is often better than a master of one’,” he tells me from a cafe just around the corner from his home on the Peckham-Lewisham border.

Finding himself at the Brit School as a young and motivated creative, with classmates including Jessie J and Adele, he soon realised he didn’t want to stick to one lane. “I was around this whole network of creatives and that’s when I realised I just wanted to do everything and didn’t want to be put in one box,” he says.

He started helping enable other people realise their talent – through producing, directing and writing – while also building up his own performing and standup career.

But for a young black man who had to deal with racial abuse on his way from Lewisham to Bromley just to attend his weekend drama school, he knew there was always going to be something more to his work than just creating content or delivering a product.

This truly came into focus for him in his 20s when he was chosen for a Shine scholarship by Elisabeth Murdoch, founder of the Shine TV production company and daughter of the somewhat infamous Rupert.

“They took us for a week in the Cotswolds and that time really helped me define my creativity. They taught me tools, meditation techniques, breathing techniques, mind-mapping and different ways to structure my ideas. And I made a decision that week to only make content that was going to make a difference.”

Setting out into the industry with this in mind has seen him become involved in a wide range of projects, from curating Grime 4 Grenfell to helping rebirth the influential Yo! MTV Raps to working with the Connor Brothers on a short film looking at Brandalism and the immigration crisis.

He also helped to create The Whole Truth – a Channel 4 documentary exploring mental health in the music industry – and was senior creative director of ITV2 reality show Peckham’s Finest.

All this work has led to an incredibly wide-ranging and diverse CV, but Darcy is keen to point out that all these projects – and indeed everything he’s been involved in that’s made a difference – are not just the fruits of one man, but rather of a collective, a tribe.

“Most of the projects I’ve worked on haven’t been things I’ve pitched and had commissioned – they’ve been commissioned already and I’ve been blessed to be a part of them. So although I’ve always set out to focus on things that are going to make a change, the things that have gone the

Darcy’s pride

furthest have often been things I’ve been asked to be involved in, and that’s cool. A man is not an island, one man can’t change the world. But when you find the tribe, and find the people who will do it with you, that’s when things can really change.”

This idea came to fruition in a big way when the documentary he presented for Channel 4’s Dispatches series, The Truth About Nike and Adidas, won the Bafta Scotland news and current affairs award in November

last year. Its creation, and Darcy’s role in it, epitomised that ethos of finding your people and making a difference together.

“I’d become a father earlier in the year so I’d decided I was only going to do things that meant something to me,” he says. “I’d also written down on my manifestation board, ‘Win a Bafta’ – literally just that.”

So when the renowned production company Firecrest Films reached out to say they were interested in him

fronting their documentary, he knew the stars were aligning. “They were looking for someone who understood the culture but who also had an interest in looking into disposable plastics and the damage it’s causing.”

It was a production that took him quite literally around the world. An affecting, informative and at times deeply worrying portrait of the impact the trainer industry is having on our environment, with an engaging and knowledgeable Darcy as the presenter,

After fronting a Bafta-winning documentary on the environmental damage caused by the trainer industry, the sky’s the limit for Darcy Thomas. We discover how the multitalented resident’s work is as interesting as it is impactful

meant the ensuing Bafta was more than deserved.

The success of the documentary has opened up a variety of doors for Darcy. Following the show he was approached by his friend Jack Self, who runs Real Review, a periodical that has featured contributions from Virgil Abloh, Ai Weiwei and Olafur Eliasson among others. Jack wanted to publish an article about climate justice and how it’s intrinsically linked to colonial reparations, and he asked Darcy if he knew someone who could write it. “He asked me, ‘Do you know anyone? Or are you up for it?’ And I was like, ‘Of course I am!’”

The co-founders of conscious creative unit Are You Mad (Making A Difference) also invited him to pair with them at their pop-up recycling centre in Soho, where plastic from the area is turned into new products by local youth. It’s a space Darcy finds inspiring and creative while also helping to spread a positive message.

“By being in central London we’re on a level with Supreme and other

Darcy Thomas presented Channel 4 documentary The Truth About Nike and Adidas, which won a Bafta in 2022

brands that the cool kids in Soho want to chill with. So we get the creatives coming, the disruptors – the kids who pull things down to build them up again. We need them to change our current system as it’s not working. So we’ve created a hub where the outcasts can come to do good by making new things, to help change.”

Fittingly, the two outfits Darcy wore to the Bafta ceremony were made by two talented locals: Lewisham’s Ryan Hawaii and south Londoner Martine

Rose. Ryan was an old friend who he’d met on the art scene and then watched blow up in the fashion world through his guerilla marketing campaigns and work with Skepta. For Darcy’s outfit, he repurposed an old suit from Next, adding handmade felt patches to the sleeves, lapels and legs. Meanwhile Martine, who Darcy reached out to through family friends, and who was fresh from providing tour threads for Kendrick Lamar, created a suit for Darcy from vintage

corset fabric bought from an old clothing firm. In another meaningful touch, the suit was then accessorised with buttons made by the Are You Mad team, using old plastic bottle lids.

The clothes, and the win, were the perfect culmination of a year’s work. “I felt very blessed to have that tribe around me, and to be able to wear Martine and Ryan and then to win,” Darcy says. “It was very surreal. It felt like angels were watching over me, especially my nan. And my son was watching me in London on YouTube in his suit, and I got sent a picture of him in the suit and I started crying. But just wearing those outfits up there, it felt like I was winning already.”

As our chat draws to a close, we turn to those spots in south-east London he might want to shout out. After giving it some thought, he says: “My mum’s house, she’s queen of the south. Without her continuous support I would not be where I am today.”

He also mentions Peckhamplex, Up the Creek comedy club in Greenwich, the Horniman, the Brit School and his yoga and meditation teacher Letty Mitchell. Ultimately though it’s the art, history, the sense of community and the diversity that make south-east London such a special place to him.

“We have different bases that represent different continents, different countries. And that gives it a rhythm. We’ve had so many great creatives that have come from the south. And I think it’s partly because of poverty and struggle, but it’s also people’s ancestors and their bloodlines. You’re not just coming on your own when you come to south London, you’re coming with your tribe.”

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We get the creatives, the disruptors –the kids who pull things down to build them up again


Landmarks from every ward in the borough of Lewisham – from Hilly Fields to the Rivoli ballroom – have been immortalised in a special series of prints by local illustrator Nancy Ellis.

After branching out into illustrations of local points of interest, the Crofton Park resident hit upon the idea of “Lewisham landmarks”, a set of illustrations and prints that documents in loving and beautifully illustrated detail 19 landmarks from the 19 different wards that make up Lewisham.

“I really wanted every corner of the borough to be represented,” Nancy said to the Lewisham Ledger when asked about the inspiration behind the project.

“The series is about celebrating and drawing attention to what we have on our doorsteps – all the wonderful art, history and creativity that is always going on throughout Lewisham.”

Nancy’s artistic process is an organic one, which combines

traditional techniques with more modern methods.

“For reference, I take a lot of photographs, at all times and in all seasons,” she said. “I also find a lot of reference material by searching online.

“I piece it together into the composition I want, which I then pencil draw. Then I scan them into the computer so I can alter the composition on the computer if I want to. I can make lots of adjustments if I want to.

“I do all the colour work digitally as well, but in a specific way and in my signature style, using lots of painted backgrounds and textures which I have painted and then scanned. Then I layer it all up.

“Because the line work is handdrawn there’s a warmth there which makes the work look natural rather than digital. It’s a laborious process, but it works for me and I really enjoy it.”

To see more of Nancy’s work, follow her on Instagram

Clockwise from far left: Crofton Park Community Library, Hilly Fields in snow, Beckenham Place Mansion, Brockley Jack Theatre Clockwise from below: a mellow morning in Hilly Fields, Brockley winter market, the Rivoli ballroom


XO Bikes offers prison leavers training and employment from its base in Lewisham Shopping Centre. Co-founder Stef Jones tells us more about the charity‘s good work

stef Jones – co-founder of charity Onwards & Upwards – is a man on a mission. For 20 years he ran his own highly successful advertising agency, but after working as a volunteer in Brixton prison he now has a new purpose.

“Very quickly I felt called to get involved with prison leavers,” he says. “Prison seemed like a broken system to me. There are a lot of guys who leave prison and then just come back again. By and large, the reason is that prison leavers aren’t getting employment opportunities, so they go back to nefarious means of earning money rather than going straight.”

The statistics starkly illustrate Stef’s point: Britain’s high reoffending rates cost the country around £18 billion a year – a figure that studies estimate would fall by 70% if all prison leavers had a legitimate job lined up on release. But with an estimated 75% of businesses not prepared to employ exoffenders, 68% of prison leavers who are not in work end up reoffending within 12 months of leaving jail.

It’s an expensive vicious circle that Stef wants to try and break. “After volunteering I resolved to create jobs for prison leavers,” he says. “So I decided to leave my ad agency and start a social enterprise specifically to train and employ prison leavers. I also wanted to inspire them to think beyond delivering parcels or labouring as a career. I saw so much talent inside and thought that if these people had the encouragement and opportunities I’d had, they would be flying.”

Lewisham Shopping Centre is the home of XO Bikes – Onwards & Upwards’ first project in a masterplan that Stef hopes will also extend to a

further four new businesses over the next four years. A mechanic-training workshop, XO Bikes provides exoffenders with the manual skills to repair bikes. Many of the bikes at the workshop are donated by the Metropolitan Police after being lost or stolen and are then sold once they’ve been refurbished or repaired.

“I used to ride to work but I’m by no means a passionate cyclist,” Stef says. “I’m a businessman and bikes seemed to me like a very viable career for men leaving custody. If you’re good with your hands you can go a long way up the chain in the cycling industry.

“You can also diversify – you can be self-employed or work for one of the race teams, or get involved in marketing or retail or buying. There’s all sorts of opportunities in cycling and it’s an industry that’s only going to get bigger with the way London

Pictured from top: Tray, who became XO Bikes' first employee, and Jai

is going and with the fact that as a society we have to get greener.

“There’s also so many bikes out there that get nicked, or lost or recovered or found, so I thought if we could get hold of some of those that would be another business cost we could mitigate to make it a viable business. And that’s what I want – a viable business where these guys can work hard and make money legally.

“As we are a charity a lot of the business costs are mitigated, so we can spend what profit we make on pastoral care and support – whether it’s helping the guys with literacy or numeracy issues, PTSD or whatever it is. I want to make money so we can provide the best support to untangle them from the other baggage that often goes along with a custodial past.”

Although XO Bikes has only been in operation for a few months, progress has been swift. “We’ve already trained about 10 guys and we’ve been able to take on four as employees,” Stef says. “No one has reoffended yet and we’re helping the other guys to get employment. We’re well known in the prisons, all the referral charities know about us and trust us and we’re receiving loads of applications.

“Depending on how many bikes we can get and how much we can turn over we want to employ as many people as possible and help other guys to get into the industry elsewhere. We plan to run employment days so Evans and Halfords can come along and hopefully steal our staff and create more space for guys leaving prison. We’re also in discussions with two prisons to run workshops on the inside, training prisoners while they’re serving their sentence so they’re qualified by the time they leave.”

Adu is one of XO Bikes’ current staff. “Working for XO Bikes has given me stability in terms of my finances,” he says. “It’s also given me structure and a routine – something to get out of bed for. When I came out [of prison] I was applying for jobs non-stop, there wasn’t work for me anywhere. Now with this experience more doors are going to open for me.”

As well as serving a social function, Stef is keen for XO Bikes to develop into a brand that turns heads. “About 60 or 70% of our bikes get refinished, which means they get powder-coated in our signature colour which we call swag black – a really gritty looking black finish,” he explains.

“Each of our fixers has their own number which provides each bike with its own cool and unique ID. So when you buy a bike from us you’re riding around on a unique bike with the XO branding. Underneath our branding is a Cannondale or a Specialized or whatever but it’s got the XO branding.”

Various XO Bikes products are also in the pipeline, many with a playful twist on the company’s ethos and the background of its employees. “We’re getting orange handcuffs made so instead of locking your bike you cuff your bike,” Stef says. “All sorts of other fun products are also going to be coming online.

“If there’s such a thing as honour among thieves, I’m hoping that when potential bike thieves see our orange handcuffs they’ll think, ‘I’m not going to nick that because one of the lads refurbished that.’ I love the thought that because of our story there might be a lower theft rate for XO Bikes.”

Ultimately, however, how far XO Bikes can expand will depend a great deal on how many donations it receives from the public. “The more bikes we are donated, the more guys we can employ,” Stef admits. “We’d love more donations. If you’ve got a decent bike, a good brand bike that you don’t want anymore we’ll take it. The response locally in Lewisham so far has been incredible. People have been so supportive, whether it’s the local guys from the community or the posh folk up the hill in Blackheath.

“What we’re doing isn’t rocket science. We just need to give these guys a chance, get them started and gently keep them on track. They don’t need much encouragement – they’re smart guys. I always say to them, ‘I’m not here to tell you not to commit another crime, you have to make that decision yourself. But if you do decide you don’t want to do that and you want a job then come and talk to me.”

I want to untangle them from the other baggage that often goes with a custodial past
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Melissa Thompson’s journey from frustrated and disaffected business management student to one of the brightest and best food writers in the country is an inspiring tale.

The Lewisham resident is riding a runaway wave of success at the moment, what with her popular and acclaimed column in BBC Good Food magazine and the recent publication of her Jamaican cookbook Motherland

Yet Melissa remains refreshingly grounded and modest. When I preface our interview by telling her that the Lewisham Ledger is planning to devote a page to her life and career she sounds pleasantly surprised and declares with a chuckle: “I better make myself comfortable then!”

Born in Dorset to a Jamaican father and Maltese mother, Melissa’s love of food is rooted in her familial connections, as well as her childhood experiences. “When I was a kid, my parents’ cooking and the connections I felt through food were really important to me,” she explains. “Another factor was that my older brother and I were sent to a military boarding school in Suffolk. At boarding school you soon become obsessed with food, which can be quite limited, so you quickly learn to get creative with whatever food you do have.”

After leaving school, Melissa started studying for a business management degree at university but “hated it”. A chance conversation with a group of Australian students inspired her to switch to a journalism course and the rest – to use a well-worn cliche – is history.

Refreshingly, Melissa’s journalistic rise was facilitated in the “old school” manner by padding the features beat for local newspaper the Dorset Echo, rather than sitting at home writing a blog or curating an Instagram page on a laptop.

Through her work with the Echo, she was able to make her peace with the area where she had been born but had always felt something of an outsider, due to her family heritage and her long spells away at boarding school.

“Dorset never really quite felt like home, so to go back there was great,” she explains. “I had a fantastic editor who gave me loads of freedom as long as I produced copy. This was pre-satnav, so I’d go out in my car, get lost and write features. I was there for about two-and-a-half years and it was a really happy time personally and professionally.

“I had a column called Bygone Days, which involved going round to old people’s houses, having a cup of tea and spending about five hours chatting to them. I loved it – the stories I’d hear and the old photos I’d get to see were incredible.

“Plus I had a food column – one week I might be at an abattoir watching cows be killed or I’d go deep-sea diving, or I’d be exploring the amazing cheeses or meats in Dorset. The column really consolidated my love of food and helped me learn to appreciate the makers of food. It tied together all those threads from childhood about food and filled in the gaps.”

Post-Dorset Echo, Melissa moved back to London and worked for a “really horrible news agency” before stints at the Press Association and the



quit journalism to run it full time, overseeing its rapid expansion into a hugely successful pop-up across London. “I didn’t really plan for it to take off in the way it did, but soon it was the thing I was looking forward to most rather than my day job,” she says.

people I know. There are also amazing food shops which I have really good relationships with.”

After becoming a mother in 2018, Melissa called time on the supper club, but she has worked in the food industry ever since, establishing the successful food and recipe project Fowl Mouths and writing for publications ranging from the Guardian to Stylist

“The food community is very supportive and fun,” she says. “It’s really easy to build connections and it’s very special to me. I’ve always felt very comfortable within the food community. People often see me as quite loud and gregarious but I’m actually quite shy. Having something – in food – that I like talking about makes life easier.”

Melissa’s passion for food and her Jamaican heritage are combined in her latest project, her fascinating first book Motherland: A Jamaican Cookbook, which was published last September by Bloomsbury. In the book she explores her own personal history and connection with the island, alongside a series of wonderful Jamaican and Jamaican-inspired recipes.

“It’s a celebration of Jamaican food in a way that hasn’t been done before because I also set out to contextualise it,” she explains. “Jamaican food was largely born out of resistance. Many Jamaican dishes weren’t rooted in luxury and yet they’re completely luxurious. With the Eurocentric approach to cuisine that often dominates, food from the Caribbean often gets overlooked and hasn’t been appreciated as much as it should have been.

“The book has classic recipes and recipes of my own creation and also essays talking about the history of Jamaica and my personal history. The combination of these things is exactly the book I wanted to write.”

The subject of Melissa’s book leads us neatly to the issue of ethnic minority representation within the food industry, an issue she is deeply passionate about.

Mirror. Having “lost some of [her] love for journalism”, she gravitated back to the food world, opening a supper club in her Forest Hill front room in 2014 that served Japanese comfort food.

The venture proved so popular that the following year Melissa

By now Melissa was also a proud south-east Londoner, having moved to Forest Hill with her partner in 2012 prior to settling in Honor Oak. “We completely fell in love with the area,” she enthuses.

“Everything you need is here and for a while it felt a bit like our little secret, but in the last few years lots of people we know seem to have gravitated to south-east London. It’s very creative, very friendly and has a village feel. I’m always bumping into

She remains cautiously optimistic about the current rate of progress. “Overall things are moving in the right direction, but there are many organisations and restaurants that could be doing better. Certain spaces are still not inclusive enough, and not just racially but in terms of class as well.

“I’m excited about aspects of change that are happening, but we need to maintain the momentum and that can be quite tiring!

“As a person of colour myself I don’t want to have to always be calling people out. I wish people would take it upon themselves to make things better rather than wait or rely on other people to call them out.”

My book is a celebration of Jamaican food in a way that hasn't been done before
Above: local food writer Melissa Thompson
Acclaimed food writer Melissa Thompson is the author of Motherland: A Jamaican Cookbook. She discusses the inspiration behind the new tome and why she loves south-east London

t’s a Friday night in the 90s. You’ve got your friends coming over for a sleepover, have been given permission to order a Pizza Hut takeaway and have the video shop membership card in one hand and a tenner in the other.

There’s nothing that brings back that heady feeling of nostalgia more than remembering a trip to the local Blockbuster to borrow a film for the night, and maybe grab a bag of popcorn if you were lucky.

Today, with the rise of the internet and streaming giants including Netflix and Amazon Prime, the video and DVD rental shop now seems like a thing of the past. However, there is one that has truly stood the test of time.

For Your Eyes Only in Forest Hill has become something of an enigma, heralded as one of the last film rental shops standing.

Established in 1998 and still in business 25 years on, even if you no longer own a DVD player it’s still highly recommended to pop into the Dartmouth Road shop one lunchtime to take a trip down memory lane, browse the shelves and have a chat with the owner, Gulam Charania.

Gulam lives in Bromley with his wife Lindsey. Before he took over the store it was an already-established video shop – and competition at that time was fierce.

Gulam recalls: “It was called Film on Film and it was a mother and daughter running it.

“They decided they wanted to move away to the coast so they sold the shop to me. There were about six in total in the area at that time.”

Growing up, Gulam was about five years old when he moved from Kenya to the UK – just a few years before England won the World Cup in 1966.

He says: “I can’t remember the exact year we moved here but I remember we had the coldest winter, and the Thames even froze over.

“Coming from a hot country to here, I’d never seen snow in my life and I can remember having wellington boots on and the snow coming over into the boots.”

He initially lived in Camberwell with his accountant dad and bank cashier mum, before his parents bought a house between Bromley and Catford.

He says: “My dad moved here first and studied accountancy. We lived in a small flat with one front room and one bedroom and I had a little box room. Rent was £8 a month! My treat when Dad went out on a Friday night was a corned beef sandwich – and that was a real treat.”

At the age of 16 Gulam went to work in dry-cleaning.

He says: “I did my O-levels and my dad begged me to do A-levels too, but I wasn’t interested. I had an uncle in Streatham who had a dry-cleaning business and he taught me the trade.

“I then got a job working at a shop in Croydon for about six months and during that time my dad bought a drycleaning shop for me to take over in Bellingham.

“I ran it for him for quite a few years until I was about 23 and did a sameday service. We were so busy.

“Then I met my wife Lindsey. We got another shop in Downham with a flat on top and we moved in there so I was running two shops, and then we


also got a dry-cleaning shop across the road from here, on Dartmouth Road. I was running three at one point.”

Then, in 1988 Gulam’s dad began a business as a video wholesaler, going on to sell videos to more than 500 outlets across the UK.

Gulam says: “He realised there was a lot of money to be made. He’d sell them to newsagents and independent

video shops. It was a big thing at that time.

“The business was getting really busy, so I joined him. I was the one who’d see the reps, do the deals. We were making amazing profit and we’d get invited to all the big premieres too! I went to a James Bond one and Princess Diana was upstairs.

“Fox, Warner Brothers – it was during the Star Wars era. The video companies would just spend money. Food, drinks, everything was free.

“They had so much money [at that time]. I remember they took me and six or so others to a really expensive restaurant. I’d never been to one in my life!

“We then went to the Warner Brothers head office and they started giving cigars out worth two grand each – I don’t even smoke!”

In 1998, Gulam bought his own video shop – the one that still exists today on Dartmouth Road – and has been featured in the likes of Vice and the Daily Telegraph for being one of the last film rental shops left in the country.

Now, he rents out PlayStation games, Blu-rays and DVDs for as little as £3 for a couple of nights, and a DVD box set can be rented for £5 per fortnight.

Back in the day at the height of video and DVD rental popularity, Gulam was renting out around 2,000 films every week, and it was actually setting up his own store that kickstarted a love for films.

He says: “I wasn’t a very avid filmgoer. My dad would take me to see films like James Bond, but I didn’t know about films like Goodfellas and Scarface

“We had them in the shop at the time and I would take them home. They were all great films, and working here encouraged me to watch more. I love action, thrillers, dramas… I love true stories also.”

Business was still going strong at the shop even in 2020. Gulam says: “Just before the pandemic we were

renting out around 400 DVDs a week, and now it’s around 200 to 300 per week.

“People do still love it and I’m still getting the odd person join. You don’t have to be a member, but it’s free to sign up. Because there aren’t many shops around we get people from all over – Croydon, Peckham, Camberwell, Catford.

“Just having a DVD in your hand – it’s nice isn’t it? You can read the box. Subscription services are quite expensive for films. The brand new releases, they’re charging £17, £18 –it’s £3 here for a standard DVD, for two or three nights.

“The internet is killing everything, shops included – Amazon is slaughtering all the shops. But we’re now going through a phase of people watching their money with this energy crisis. People are going to be watching their pennies, and I think people are starting to get bored of subscription services.”

Now, the store opens from midday till 8pm Monday to Saturday, and thankfully, despite the difficult climate, Gulam was able to reopen after a parked, driverless car rolled down Derby Hill directly opposite and smashed through the front window in May, narrowly missing a few customers inside.

Gulam – who is petitioning the council to get bollards installed to prevent it happening again – says: “A car was parked across the road, broken down, and had three or four parking tickets. Someone tried to park behind and nudged it and it just rolled across the road and straight through the front window.

“When I reopened a few months later I had people coming in to say they were glad to see we’d reopened as they were worried we’d shut down for good, which was really nice.”

One trend that has never died is the cult of the horror film, and there’s a special section in store dedicated to the genre. Gulam says: “The new releases are the most popular – the big cinema hits – and horrors, believe it or not! There’s one – I don’t know if you’d want to watch it, I wouldn’t want to – called Terrifier 2. It’s all blood and gore, the kind of film they loved in the 80s.”

While DVDs may seem like a thing of the past, anyone who remembers the joy of a trip to their local rental shop should throw their support behind For Your Eyes Only, before it’s too late.

Gulam adds: “Every year I say, ‘I don’t know if I’m going to last this year’ – and I didn’t think I was going to last after the pandemic but people started coming back.

“I just go year by year. If they stop coming in – that’s it.”

Above: Gulam Charania in his Forest Hill shop
The big cinema hits and horrors like Terrifier 2 are the most popular
The rapid rise of streaming quickly spelt the end for film rental shops, but one store in Forest Hill has endured. We popped into For Your Eyes Only for a chat with owner Gulam Charania


Friday mornings at 9am during term time, book online at

So far in the time my son has been a student at Sedgehill Academy, he has excelled in his education, ability and grown as a person. We love this school and it’s values. They treat each child with the upmost respect and always have their best interests at heart.

Current Year 7 parent

@sedgehillacad sedgehillacademy
“ “


Last year, St Dunstan’s College, in Catford, was delighted to be named Independent Senior School of the Year at the Tes Awards in central London.

The awards, known as the Oscars of Education, celebrate the work of teachers and schools across the United Kingdom. The event was held in person for the first time since the start of the pandemic, and for the first time in Tes’s history the awards brought together both state and independent schools for the ceremony.

Speaking about the award, St Dunstan’s Head, Mr Nick Hewlett said: ‘We are absolutely delighted to have been recognised in this way. It is testament to the extraordinary drive and ambition of so many that we have been able to create the unique school culture we enjoy today.

‘To transform a school so that it challenges and trailblazes in the sector takes a colossal community effort. My gratitude goes to everyone who has contributed to our incredible journey as a school.’

Winners were chosen by a panel of experts – including school leaders, inspectors, and education researchers.

Judge David James has worked in independent schools for over 20 years and is an experienced inspector for the Independent Schools Inspectorate. He said: ‘There’s a very clear and coherent vision of what they want to do, both with the curriculum and the local community.

‘The head is asking interesting questions of the sector, including areas like privilege and responsibility, which go beyond the usual platitudes. It’s a really interesting school in a tough market, trying to not just survive but actually make something different for the children and families they’re working with.’

The award comes at an exciting time for St Dunstan’s. In 2021, the College’s new £25million Junior School, STEM and Sixth Form buildings officially opened, which were the most significant developments since the school opened in 1888. The College’s forward-thinking approach is now matched by modern, bright, and inspirational facilities. This was followed by the opening of a new Performing Arts Centre, which includes dedicated learning spaces for the arts and a 170-seat theatre. The state-of-the-art facilities are also regularly used by local schools and community groups.

Since arriving at St Dunstan’s, Head, Nick Hewlett, has been committed to working closer with the local community and providing

life-enriching opportunities for local residents.

St Dunstan’s, in collaboration with the Westside Young Leaders Academy (WYLA) and Lewisham Council, established the Lewisham Young Leaders Academy (LYLA), a groundbreaking academy for young people in the borough.

The academy was established in response to research and evidence showing disparities in attainment and outcomes for Black Caribbean and dual heritage (Black Caribbean/ White) children and young people, not just in Lewisham, but throughout London and the UK.

Through weekend classes, Lewisham Young Leaders Academy provides additional support to young people from across Lewisham through transformative teaching in life skills, including leadership, teamwork, presentation skills and CV building. The programme is designed to develop 12 traits of leadership in the young people attending: bearing, courage, decisiveness, enthusiasm, initiative, integrity, judgement, knowledge, loyalty, perseverance, responsibility and unselfishness.

Last year the project was shortlisted for an award at the Independent School of the Year Awards. Speaking about the shortlisting, St Dunstan’s Head, Nick Hewlett said: ‘I am delighted that this unique partnership has been recognised by the Independent School of the Year Awards. St Dunstan’s College is passionate about, and dedicated to, providing life-enriching opportunities to our local community. We realise that we hold a privileged position as an independent school both in terms of our facilities and the experiences of our staff and pupils, and we are proud to work closely with Westside Young Leaders Academy (WYLA) and Lewisham Council on Lewisham Young Leaders Academy (LYLA).

‘The team at LYLA are changing the lives of the young people attending each week, and I look forward to growing our continued partnership.’

Damien Egan, Mayor of Lewisham said: ‘We live in the wealthiest city in Europe, and for too long many of our young people here in Lewisham, and particularly those from African and Caribbean backgrounds, have found it difficult to access those top jobs and opportunities.

I’m very grateful to St Dunstan’s for hosting the programme and working with us on this brilliant initiative, that is already making such a difference. I’m excited to see what happens next for the programme.’

Most recently the school has won praise for its groundbreaking

Stuart Curriculum, which looks at relationships, skills for the future and critical thinking. Stuart lessons have tackled the rise of toxic masculinity and, in particular, individuals such as Andrew Tate. Speaking about the lessons, St Dunstan’s Deputy Head Academic, Jonathan Holmes, explained: ‘As well as having the confidence to react to specific examples such as Andrew Tate, it is important that our teaching is predominantly proactive and enables students to independently understand when views are harmful and dangerous, and how they can protect themselves from being exposed and influenced by them online.’

St Dunstan’s offers a variety of bursaries and scholarships for pupils joining at 11+ and 16+. Find out more information at

The College is also on Twitter (@StDunstansColl) and Instagram (@StDunstansCollege).

Outspoken, principled and a tireless campaigner for social and racial justice, Wilfred Wood was the Church of England’s first black bishop and one of the most influential and significant religious figures of our time.

Wood was born to Wilfred Coward and Elsie Elmira Wood in Proute, Barbados on 15 June 1936. After school he targeted a political career but due to his deep religious convictions he decided to enter the priesthood instead.

After studying at Codrington College, an Anglican theological college in Barbados, Wood was ordained as a deacon in 1962 and then travelled to England. His original intention was to stay in the UK for just a few years, but in the end he would remain for four decades, battling the everyday and institutional injustices that he observed so frequently.

The Reverend Azariah FranceWilliams, an Anglican priest much influenced by Wood, described the social context that his hero encountered during his early years in England. “He noticed black youths being treated poorly and at times criminally by law enforcement,” Rev France-Williams noted.

“He noticed bright young black people systemically and systematically prevented from mounting the first rung of the career ladder due to the bias. He witnessed the multiple barriers to housing for black families as they put up with abysmal living conditions and had little support from officials to fight their corner. The list goes on…”

During the 1960s Wood worked as a curate at the Church of St Stephen and St Thomas in Shepherd’s Bush and was then appointed vicar of St Laurence in Catford in 1974. It was clear from the outset that he was no ordinary priest, but rather one driven by an unusually clear sense of moral purpose and social activism.

His outspoken nature on issues of race and race relations soon brought his work to wider attention. In 1968 he co-authored the book Vicious Circle, which coherently and persuasively argued that the Church of England needed to urgently engage in a process of anti-racist activism.

As well as challenging racism in the UK, Wood also fought tirelessly to draw attention to international injustices by serving as moderator of the World Council of Churches Programme to Combat Racism. His daughter Gil, now a lecturer in journalism, recalls that her father once spent Christmas Day protesting against apartheid outside South Africa House in central London, before then travelling to Wormwood Scrubs prison to offer counsel to lonely convicts.

Such acts of activism and compassion were typical of Wood’s desire to create lasting societal change. He played a key role in initiatives on a national level, such as encouraging the establishment of an independent prosecuting service (later known as the Crown Prosecution Service) and locally, like the employment training scheme for black men and women that he set up in south London.

Although Wood moved through the ranks of the Church of England fairly steadily during the 1970s and early 80s, many believed the pace of his rise was not commensurate with his


Wilfred Wood, the Church of England's first black bishop

His contribution to race relations in the UK and overseas was truly mighty

A year later Wood was appointed archdeacon of Southwark, by which time he and his wife Ina – as well as their five children – were living in Dulwich at 1a Dog Kennel Hill.

In 1985 Wood finally ascended to the position of bishop and was consecrated as bishop of Croydon by the then archbishop of Canterbury Dr Robert Runcie at St Paul’s Cathedral. Speaking to Thames News straight after the service, Wood admitted: “I’m now getting used to the idea that I’m a bishop. This is just the beginning, it will take a little while to get used to the idea. There’s a sense of rejoicing, some trepidation as well, but we will see what happens.”

Reflecting years later, Wood recalled the day of his consecration with affection and pride. “At the service at St Paul’s Cathedral, which holds 2,900, there was not enough room, as people had come from all over the world – mostly black [people] were in attendance – and there are 49 bishops who took part in the service… When my appointment was announced, I received 703 letters of congratulations and well wishes. It was a great day.”

ability, arguing that his unflinching criticisms of the church had perhaps harmed his prospects of promotion.

Often Wood had to work outside the structure and strictures of the church to affect and inspire change. As Rev France-Williams said: “He set up a fund to support black families in need, established a credit union to create sustainable ongoing income, opened Saturday schools to supplement education, formed a successful job club and established a housing agency which is still going, and more.

“It was all funded independently and so kept its sense of agency and power to affect change and work with a culturally appropriate world view. Statutory funding had strings attached, was top-down, bureaucratic and in many cases demeaning. He, on the other hand, always began with the dignity of the person or persons in need.”

In 1977 Wood became dean of East Lewisham and an honorary canon of Southwark Cathedral. While serving in this capacity, he played a key role in the aftermath of the tragic New Cross fire in 1981, in which 13 black people lost their lives. The incident precipitated a Black People’s Day of Action that saw 20,000 people march through London.

Wood spoke eloquently and powerfully to those on the march at Fordham Park, New Cross, telling them: “Whatever the racists may think, God made us black people as we are, to be as we are, and we are not going to commit mass suicide, or withdraw to some overseas reservations simply to indulge those who want an all-white Britain.”

Later in 1985, Wood was one of the authors of the highly influential Faith in the City report produced by the archbishop of Canterbury’s Commission on Urban Priority Areas. The report drew attention to various social issues, notably relating to urban poverty, and became a source of fierce ideological debate, with one unnamed Conservative cabinet minister labelling it “pure Marxist theology”. However, others recognised in the report’s work a damning and necessary critique of the worst excesses of Thatcherism.

After serving with distinction as the bishop of Croydon, maintaining throughout his fierce commitment and devotion to the issues that had always been dear to his heart, on Barbados Independence Day 2000, Wood was made a knight of St Andrew by the Queen in recognition of “his contribution to race relations in the United Kingdom and general contribution to the welfare of Barbadians living here”. The wording was barely adequate for a man whose contribution to the social fabric of London, the UK and international race relations was truly mighty.

Wood finally stepped down as bishop of Croydon in 2002 and returned with his wife to Barbados to enjoy his retirement. Two years later, he finished as runner-up to Mary Seacole in a public vote to determine 100 great black Britons.

Although he succumbed to blindness in 2004, Wood still worships regularly at St Lawrence Church in Barbados and his legacy as one of the great leaders of the Church of England is assured.

A look at the life of Wilfred Wood, the activist, campaigner and former local vicar who became the Church of England’s first black bishop


Honor Oak resident Melissa Thompson shares a recipe from her new book

“Shrimp”, as they are called on the island, have been a mainstay of the Jamaican diet since our knowledge of human history there begins. They were eaten by the indigenous Jamaicans; the Taíno are recorded to have fed Columbus a meal that included them. The sea and rivers remain a source of the crustaceans to this day. My idea for this dish came from Japanese tempura: the sweet prawns encased in a light, crispy batter is a dream combination. While tempura calls for soda water, ginger beer is a great alternative. It brings both delicate flavour and sweetness, while the bubbles make the batter as light as air.

Ingredients (serves 4 as a starter)

16-24 shell-on raw king


1 garlic clove, crushed

2.5cm piece of ginger, finely grated

Vegetable oil, for deepfrying

50g cornflour

50g plain flour

120ml ice-cold ginger beer (not diet)

Sea salt and freshly ground black pepper

Lime wedges, to serve


1 Remove the heads and shells of the prawns, leaving on the tail sections. (You can also use shelled prawns, as long as they are raw.) Mix in a bowl with the garlic, ginger and some pepper and leave for 30 minutes.

2 Pour oil into a medium-sized saucepan, following all the usual precautions for deep-frying and heating to 180°C.

3 Mix the flours in a bowl and pour in the ginger beer. Stir loosely, as vigorous mixing will get rid of the bubbles you want to keep; don’t worry if there are some lumps. Just before cooking,



6 HOTREFILLS (anagram) (6, 4)

9 Charity gift (8)

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11 Helicopter blade (5)

12 Dishes, cups etc (9)

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16 Highest (7)

18 Ancient Greek philosopher (9)

20 Savoury jelly (5)

21 Take no notice of (6)

22 Render unconscious (5, 3)

24 Rating, judgement (10)

Motherland: A Jamaican Cookbook

season the prawns with a good pinch of salt.

4 Holding a prawn by the tail, dip it into the batter, then drop it into the hot oil. Cook until the batter puffs up (about 2 minutes). Repeat to cook all the prawns, frying them in small batches so as not to overcrowd the pan. Drain on a wire rack placed over kitchen paper, not directly on kitchen paper or the batter will go soggy, and serve with a squeeze of lime.


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Bromley Rugby Football Club began life in 1886 as Catford Bridge FC. It was linked to St George’s Church on the SE6/SE23 border.

The team initially wore terracotta and purple shirts, but in 1895 the colours changed to black and amber, which the players still wear today.

In 1898 the team became one of the first to travel to Europe, when they won a resounding 11-0 victory against Stade Français in Paris.

Tragically 24 men from the club were killed in World War One. Their names are featured on a memorial at the Warman Sports Club in Bromley.

22 LEWISHAM LEISURE 44 44 1 44 2 44 3 44 4 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 10 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 12 13 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 15 44 16 17 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 19 44 20 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 22 44 44 23 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 44 6 9 11 14 18 21 44 8 7 5 24
6 Across is a part of Lewisham borough.
ACROSS: 6 Forest Hill, 9 Donation, 10 Depict, 11 Rotor, 12 Tableware, 14 Incense, 16 Tallest, 18 Aristotle, 20 Aspic, 21 Ignore, 22 Knock out, 24 Assessment. DOWN: 1 Writer, 2 Assortment, 3 Shy, 4 Bluebell, 5 Modernisation, 6 Fanatic, 7 Authenticated, 8 Visa, 13 Bitterness, 15 Naturist, 17 Exploit, 19 Inns, 20 Archer, 23 Bet. SOLUTION


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