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East3 The Insiders’ Guide to Bow 2016

I’m F – pl REE e take ase me!

People • Places • Life • Cafés • Pubs • Shops • Community • Culture • Heritage

Welcome to the Insiders’ Guide to Bow

EAST3 People – meet some Bow

Bow is bursting with life; there are remarkable things going on, if you take the time to look. In autumn 2015, we brought together a group of Bow residents and community ‘insiders’ for an eight-week journalism project. Some of us were first-time reporters, others more experienced. What united us was our fascination with Bow. Together we ventured out, intent on finding out more about our neighbourhood. We met poets and police officers, cabbies and conservationists, shopkeepers and showgirls. Each had their story to tell, a reflection of life in E3. This Insiders’ Guide brings together the stories we discovered. We hope you enjoy it. Please share this guide with your neighbours, and spread the word amongst your friends online:


Places – go behind the sce


Life – discover some rema

Graham Barker and Liz Baume Project coordinators

Published by Walk East, 2016. We’ve tried our best to ensure the content of this Insiders’ Guide is accurate and up to date; we apologise for any bloomers, blips or oversights. We’d love to hear your feedback:

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EXPLORED people doing extraordinary things




enes at local landmarks and community projects




arkable stories, out and about in Bow



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Flash, Bang, Wallop Bow has something for all tastes: busy shops and quiet corners, arty enclaves and friendly faces. Whilst out and about, our photographers took a closer look.

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– What a Picture!

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The inside track: We take a gander along the Roman Road

Lofty’s With stock ranging from sofas and mattresses to shabby-chic candleholders and photo frames, Lofty’s is a low-price, one-stop, homeware shop. A quick turnover of items keeps customers returning in search of more ‘little treasures’. 539-541 Roman Road, E3 5EL

Solinka Polish Deli Squeeze past the jars bulging with preserves, syrups and pickles into this compact, friendly, family-run store full of fresh, chilled, frozen and dried Polish delicacies and essentials. Whether it’s a full meal or a tasty treat you are after – rustic sausages or sweet cheese and chocolate pastry – it’s there somewhere, and worth hunting for. 518 Roman Road, E3 5ES







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Vinarius A friendly space has opened up for the curious to enjoy a glass of wine (or perhaps Welsh cider!) along with a tasty morsel from the simple but delicious Mediterranean menu created by the French, Spanish and Italian team. Be adventurous and try-before-you-buy at the regular, affordable wine-tasting events, or get your favourites at an inviting discount. 536 Roman Road, E3 5ES

places: ROMAN ROAD
















Impulse Shoes Conveniently located, and with friendly staff, this cosy little shop has a wide selection of children’s shoes from babies’ booties to teenagers’ favourite brands; men’s boots and brogues; women’s sandals and stilettos; and handbags galore. What’s more, there are red-ticket sale items all year round – and you can still get something for a fiver. 579 Roman Road, E3 5EL

Spitalfields Crypt Trust Charity Shop Charity shop equals junk? Wrong! SCT looks and smells fresh, with well organised and effectively displayed books, DVDs, games and clothes. The shelves are stacked with an assortment of pretty teapots, bric-a-brac and other surprisingly tempting items. Pre-loved can mean affordable quality: don’t overlook this treasure-trove. 589-591 Roman Road, E3 5EL

Sahin Greengrocers This well-stocked greengrocery offers fresh fruit and vegetables from the UK and beyond. Exotic and hard-to-find varieties sit alongside the staples of potatoes, peas and carrots. Fresh and dried herbs are available to liven up any cook’s kitchen, as are organic olives, oil and honey. Speciality tinned pulses are also on sale in this colourful corner of Roman Road. 596 Roman Road, E3 2RW

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Bums, Tums and Power Pumps Exercise instructor Bianca Phillips flexes a few muscles with Sarah Grimshaw and Sheila Ozeer Fitness magazines are everywhere, packed with a lot of advice that can feel quite repetitive. Bianca Phillips is a refreshing voice with a genuine passion for fitness and exercise. “I really enjoy seeing people get fitter, healthier, and the glow in their face at the end when they say they can’t wait for the next class,” says Bianca, who runs classes at the Linc Centre, St Paul’s Way Centre and other local spaces. “I’m there to instruct and help, not do my own personal workout.” Many of her clients are older adults and people with disabilities where the focus is on seated exercise, where all the muscles can be worked. “Nothing can beat that kind of job satisfaction,” she says, “seeing big smiles on people’s faces.” But the range of classes she offers does not stop with seated exercise. “I teach 8 | EAST3 2016

box fit, combat, BTT (bum, tum and thighs), power pump, gym ball, spin, aerobics, step and boot camp.” Bianca started as a dancer and toured the UK with dance companies. “That experience allowed me to travel and develop a career that eventually brought me back to Bow as an exercise instructor. I danced for Indian and African dance companies, and as a backing dancer for tribute bands. My favourite dance style is contemporary, which I trained in.” Extreme jump rope is her favourite personal exercise which involves all sorts of different tricks and speeds with a skipping rope. She also cycles, whenever possible, between her exercise classes. “You don’t need a gym to keep fit but it can also be motivating exercising with other people.”


Ready? Get Set. Go! Whether the idea of keeping fit fills you with dread or with enthusiasm, here are some valuable tips and advice from Bianca to help get you started: • Start gradually, start little, do everything in moderation. There’s the risk of going overboard and doing damage to your body; it’s important to take care of yourself. • Any form of exercise can be as gentle or as intense as you want it to be – you’re still keeping fit. • Do an exercise that you’ll enjoy doing. If it’s not a chore or a task, then you’re more than likely to want to do it more often. • With a range of exercises to choose from, it’s a good idea to do some research and either talk to the instructor about the class that you’re interested in or your doctor. They’ll advise you – depending on your fitness level – if the class is suitable for you. • “Fitness is not about what you look like on the outside but what’s going on inside, making sure that your organs are healthy,” says Bianca. “Never compare yourself to anybody because we’re all different – focus on what’s good for your body and what works for you.” Bianca runs classes at the Linc Centre, St Paul’s Way Centre and Francis Lee Centre. Contact Just B:Active on or 07797 770625.

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ART AND IDEALS Elizabeth Murton discusses her art with Heather Qualtrough In her light-suffused, shared studio, Elizabeth Murton’s fragile-looking mesh pieces – “not ready to be out in the world yet” – float on the wall, alongside intricate patterns inspired by quantum physics and neurons. In her work, she explores the ‘very small’ and its potential to become ‘very large’; her room-filling sculptures transform and recycle discarded materials. Elizabeth’s wider activities reflect the aspirations of Bow Arts Trust founder, Marcel Baettig: to provide education and teaching in the studio, as well as in the community. She began supporting artists around her ‘big kitchen table’. From this, a reflective forum for ‘peer crit’ grew – “helping artists see something afresh and find their own answers” – that, in turn, led to a funded professional development programme. Elizabeth subscribes to the idea that “We danced and sang before we spoke – art is a symbolic communication”, a basic instinct. Through the educational art programmes, schoolchildren, she explains “can explore the mysterious level of interactions that we don’t really understand; the gaps in human perception and knowledge; the puzzle of systems and ecologies around us” and be made aware of the potential for that fine balance to be disturbed at any moment. Recognition of the financial, as well as the creative, value of art and artists is a consideration in austere times. Elizabeth reflects: “People come to London because they know it’s a creative place. Bow is part of the London Artists’ Quarter” – an important contributor to the regeneration and prosperity of the area. 10 | EAST3 2016

Fragility and Strength Gynelle Leon meets artist Lizzie Cannon Based in a studio at the heart of the Bow Arts Trust complex, Lizzie Cannon is a Goldsmith’s graduate in textiles. Her work encapsulates “subtle reciprocal interactions between people and their environment”. “I’m fascinated by the degrading process and change of materials,” she explains, such as natural wear, aging and corrosion. Her choice of materials reflects the “cross fertilisation of environments” and the contrast between city and rural: the fragility of small dried leaves, the strength of an enormous enclosure of corroded steel, both delicately embellished with beadwork. Lizzie continually benefits from being a part of the “very supportive Bow Arts environment”, with space to create, support from the artist community and public exposure of her work.


Bow Arts at 20 In 2015, Bow Arts Trust celebrated its 20th anniversary. Gallery manager Sophie Hill gives us a glimpse into its past, present and future. Established in 1995, the Trust holds true to founder Marcel Baettig’s original vision – to provide emerging artists with affordable studio space, opportunities for educational work, and a creative, supportive environment. “One of the highlights last year was the opening of a large studio complex called the Rum Factory in Tobacco Dock,” Sophie explains. “We also released ‘20 prints for 20 years’ – 18 created by our in-house artists and 2 from our educational department.” And the next 20 years? “We’ll keep and find more affordable studio spaces,” she says. The Trust doesn’t currently own freehold buildings, but the hope would be to acquire one in the future. “We’ll also develop more community projects with schools wherever we have studios, making the artists feel part of the community.” It’s this commitment to helping artists develop their practice, coupled with building strong community links, which makes Bow Arts Trust special. Visit for details of Open Studios weekend, Nunnery Gallery exhibitions, film nights and workshops. EAST3 2016 | 11


Bollywood and Beyond Nooraini Mydin takes a trip with Jim Rainbird Sometimes it’s just a case of being in the right place at the right time. In the case of Bow cabbie, Jim Rainbird, it was living near a few media personalities – including Graham Norton – which helped kick-start a lot of film work for him and his cab.

claim to fame must be his appearance as a cabbie in the Bollywood film, Namaste London.

“From one job, my details just got passed on to other agencies leading to several assignments in film and advertising,” he tells me. “The black cab is an icon of London and is much sought after in advertisements.”

Jim served as Master of the Worshipful Company of Hackney Carriage Drivers in 2010-11. But his greatest pleasure has been the voluntary work he has done for the last 18 years with the children’s charity, Magical Taxi Tour, in which he and 99 other cabbies drive 200 terminally ill children to Disneyland Paris for three nights. “The first time I did it, it blew me away. Now I’m the Vice-Chair and Treasurer of the charity.”

A Cockney born and bred, Jim has driven thousands of fares since first being licensed in 1992. Apart from Tom Cruise, his most famous passenger was Kermit the Frog. Whilst filming, Kermit’s puppeteer had to lie cramped on the cab floor, manoeuvring the green fellow’s hands out of the window: “After seven takes, I was shocked to hear Kermit swearing behind me!” Another 12 | EAST3 2016

So, when you’re next hailing a cab, look at the driver – it might be Jim.



SNAP owner Helen Fisher shows Gynelle Leon around her card and gift emporium It all started in June 2012; after years as a buyer, window dresser and in many sales roles, Helen Fisher decided to take the leap into a business of her own. She created SNAP – a modern, vibrant store selling cards and gifts, with a strong element of creativity and good design. Proximity to her home in Bow played a role in Helen’s decision to choose Roman Road for her first shop: “I know the area, I know who my customers are”, she explains. The stock – all of which she chooses personally – not only caters for its customers but reflects the local community. Looking around, I spotted Roman Road greetings cards, No 8 Bus screen prints, and ‘Bow E3’ tote bags. Gifts have proved to be very popular – “you can grab a present while you buy a card” – and the shelves are stacked with candles, notebooks and jewellery.

A self-proclaimed lover of greetings cards, Helen was surprised how much consideration people put into sending them. There’s a card for every occasion, with a strong emphasis on modern life and current culture. What’s special about SNAP? It’s the personal service; sometimes she will help write a card for those who don’t have a great grasp of English. The success of the Roman Road shop has given Helen the confidence to open a second branch in Mile End, and she hopes to open more. “The popularity of the greetings cards has been amazing,” she says with a smile, “digital has not conquered us yet!” 465 Roman Road, E3 5LX and 12C Grove Road, E3 5AX EAST3 2016 | 13

Blackbirds over Bow Local poet Alex Josephy talks to Lucy Beacon about Italy, inspiration and poetry “I love language and it’s really exciting learning a new one,” says Alex Josephy, a Bow-based poet. “I spend quite a lot of time in Italy and I think I find something of myself in the divided life I live. Travelling between two cultures, I’m always seeing things from the outside and I find that really helps in writing poetry.” As well as writing poems, Alex also translates them into Italian. But with so many subtle differences in each word, how does she choose the correct one? “Is it in the meaning that’s being painted, or is it in the sound? How on earth can you translate that? Really 14 | EAST3 2016

you can’t,” explains Alex. “Translators are playing with the text in one language and creating something new that’s inspired by it.” This is an exciting time for Alex – her first collection, Other Blackbirds, has just come off the press. But was it a sun-soaked Italy or a rain-swept Bow that inspired her? “The title poem is a reflection of being on a railway station in Italy,” says Alex. “But some of the poems and influences are very English”. Having a book published is many writers’ dream but “you have to work on success – it doesn’t come

people: ALEX JOSEPHy immediately,” explains Alex who’s been writing since childhood. “If you’re brilliant, you can send out some poetry and it’s immediately picked up. But most of us have to work on it. I’ve found it’s persistence that gets poetry published.” Alex believes it’s a wonderful time for poetry at the moment. “There’s so much going on. There are loads of readings you can go to and there are lots of publications.” Having some of her poetry printed in these magazines led Alex to getting Other Blackbirds published. “I’d had quite a lot of poems in magazines and anthologies. I was shortlisted a couple of times for poetry collection competitions, so Cinnamon Press offered to mentor me for a year.” Entering competitions is one way for aspiring poets to progress, according to Alex. “I’ve had poems placed in competitions but only quite recently won some.” She entered two of her poems into the Battered Moons competition. “I came joint first in that competition – with myself!” explains a delighted Alex. Alex always encourages aspiring poets. “If you think you want to write poetry then read poetry. Find out which poets you love and take it from there.” Other Blackbirds is published by Cinnamon Press.

Scalandrino Wishbone-curved, it hangs between forks and hoes in the lean-to. He made it from the split trunk of a chestnut sapling, not for the farm but the small field near the house where the children splashed in a trough, hot July afternoons. Made it slender, carved the top like a prow, to slide into the crook between two boughs, each rung narrower than the last as he ascended through curled leaves, wasps, breaks of sky. He’d straddle the frame, fill a basket to the brim; cherries for the sour-sweet jam they liked more than anything. These days, it’s rare he’ll venture to the orchard. One son’s a bank clerk, one’s in California. Hard to come by now, these scalandrini; might be worth a bit, if anyone remembered the shack overgrown with vines, the ladder, bone-dry, silvering in the dark among the onion-wreaths. Scalandrino won the McClellan Poetry Prize in 2014 EAST3 2016 | 15

FROM to BOW via BROOkLyN burlesque Bianca Phillips realises first impressions aren’t all they seem as she chats to a Bow couple Mr Gosney and Ms Kallman like nothing more than to hide under the duvet on the weekend after a hard week at work. Mr Gosney cooks for his wife so she’s ready to face another hard day in her high-powered job. He likes to keep fit; she eats healthily; they walk their dog Lucca – just a normal couple leading normal lives… But roll back to 2004 and you discover they’re far from normal. Let’s start with Amelia Kallman – a young, talented, classically trained actress from Virginia. She heads to New York and hears of a party in a plush part of town. “Let’s gate crash,” she thinks. Norman Gosney, the host of the party, sets eyes on her and says “Wow!” She plays very hard to get, so he has to track her down at a party in Brooklyn. His persistence pays off – he gets his girl! What a fairy-tale ending… oh, but there’s more. In fact the tale has just begun. Norman, a successful international club designer, speaks to a pal and talks a good talk about transforming old office blocks into a speakeasy. So he and Amelia open their first burlesque show together called the ‘Blushing Diamond’. It’s Amelia’s first introduction to burlesque, and she’s initially somewhat reluctant. But she 16 | EAST3 2016

people: A SHANGHAI SHOWGIRL soon develops her own brilliant style. The club is full with the crème de la crème of burlesque performers. It takes off, but is illegal: time to move on. It’s now 2007 and the USA is not giving them what they crave, more adventure and more cash. “If you’re avant-garde, you’re an icebreaker, you’re out there working in the cold, all the time. When you’ve broken the ice the cruise ships come in and make all the money,” says Norman. They pack up and leave America. “But where to go?” China. They set sail on their cruise of adventure. Docking in Shanghai, they saw a most beautiful Buddhist temple for their venue. After two years of transformation and legal matters, they finally opened the doors, having put together a great ensemble of performers from all over the world.

But with their great success came unwanted – and costly – attention. Officials wanted to take over the running of the club, and were making unfair demands on the couple. Things went from bad to worse for the couple who didn’t want to throw away their dreams and hard work. But events took such a sinister turn they were forced to flee to Bali, before coming back to London. Are there any more adventures in this couple’s life? Well, yes. Amelia has written a book on their experiences in Shanghai, they both perform all over the world in their twoperson show, and now they’re working on a project to make burlesque a virtual reality experience.

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A Day in the Life of Idea Store Bow Sheila Ozeer gets the inside story from team leader Liza McCarthy 9:00am: The Idea Store is ready for another busy day: the plasma screens are on, today’s newspapers have been put out, and the building is freshly cleaned. “We always nip outside as well, to check things look OK from the customers’ perspective,” explains team leader, Liza McCarthy. 10:00am: Senior citizens arrive for Prime Time. One lady is focused on renewing her Freedom Pass online; others come along for a chat and a cup of coffee, a chance to meet new faces and familiar friends. At the Help Desk, there’s a steady stream of returned books, CDs and DVDs, and requests for recycling and compost bags.

10:30am: A chorus of ‘Head, Shoulders, Knees and Toes’ comes from the Children’s Area. Parents and carers, accompanied by their under-5s, have just joined in with some Story Time fun by singing rhymes and reading stories. On Tuesdays, a toy lending library adds to the excitement. And there are more Dads than usual on Saturdays, enjoying some special bonding time with their children in the Dads’ Club. 11:00am: A group of knitters sits in the corner clicking away with their needles. And on Sundays, over the newspapers and coffee, the News Views Group discuss – and rant – about current affairs. In the foyer, the local health trainers have set up a stall. Sometimes they offer simple health checks, away from the formality of the doctor’s surgery. Other days you might find stalls on welfare advice, HIV awareness, or job clubs. 1:00pm: Need help using a computer? A member of staff works with a volunteer to run Learn My Way/Get Online sessions. They come to the

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places: IDEA STORE BOW rescue of a stressed lady who has rushed in: “I need to print off my ticket, I’m going on holiday first thing in the morning, please, please, help me!” Students arrive for their ESOL class. As well as basic literacy, there’s help with job skills and higher-level qualifications. 3:00pm: In the Book Break group you can just sit back and relax whilst listening to stories and poems, or join in with the reading aloud and the follow-on discussion. A visitor stops by the current exhibition, ‘16 Days of Violence Against Women’. “We had local artist Dan Jones exhibiting here recently,” adds Liza, “and we often show work that’s been produced by Idea Store learners.”

3:30pm: Youngsters start coming in after school. There’s a choice of groups on different days: Boys’ Book Club, Girls’ Book Club, Computer Club, Teenage Book Club and Homework Club. Back at the Help Desk, a visitor wants to enrol for a course, and another is keen to find out about the Saturday Art Club. Members of staff rotate their duties throughout the day – dealing with returns, helping in the children’s

area, checking in new stock, and floor walking. 6:00pm: Keen foodies start to collect their goodies from Food Assembly – seasonal fruit and vegetables, bread, cheese and meat ordered online from a range of farmers and other suppliers. 6:30pm: Sewing machines whirr away in a ‘Make a Basic Dress’ class. “At other times,” explains Liza, “the Learning Labs are used for chair-based yoga, spoken English classes, and by groups such as the Bow Bengali Forum and Bow Haven.” 7:00pm: An informal Book Group discusses this month’s book. Students are concentrating hard, head down over their laptops in the quiet Study Area. 9:00pm: The end of another busy day. Idea Store Bow is at the heart of the community – not only a place for borrowing books, but also for lifelong learning, for meeting old friends and new people. As Liza puts it, “It’s just about serving the customer from the minute you open and to the minute you close.” Idea Store Bow 1 Gladstone Place Roman Road E3 5ES Idea Stores are created and managed by Tower Hamlets Council. EAST3 2016 | 19

A New Heart for Bow Sarah Grimshaw enjoys a cuppa with Karen Diss and Chris Fryer at St Paul’s Church café “The St Paul’s café is a place of welcome and hospitality, which is what’s at the heart of our mission,” explains venue manager, Karen Diss. “When we re-opened the church in 2004 we wanted it to be a place that served the whole community.” I’m sitting on a comfy sofa at St Paul’s Church Old Ford. Over coffee and a delicious slice of homemade lemon drizzle cake, I’m here to get the inside track from Karen and café supervisor, Christine Fryer. This is a place where new friendships develop. “Some visitors are members of groups at St Paul’s – the Friday craft workshop, for example, or the mum and baby sensory session – and others come in on their own.” It can feel intimidating to go to some cafés alone, yet St 20 | EAST3 2016

Paul’s has a friendly, safe atmosphere. As Chris says, “By the time newcomers leave, they’ve spoken to someone, they’ve made a friend.” St Paul’s is a Victorian church that has been at the heart of the Bow community through several generations. The café nestles beside the reception area, and the contrast of exposed brickwork, high ceilings and stained glass provides an alternative to more mainstream, commercial cafés. The menu offers traditional fare – think scrambled eggs or mushrooms on toast, and cheesy jacket potatoes – as well as new dishes: “We have specials that vary each week,” adds Chris, “and we also provide a children’s menu.” There are plenty of mouth-watering cakes too, and Chris – together with her colleague

places: ST PAUL’S OLD FORD Rosie – is a dab hand at baking coconut sponges, carrot cakes and other tempting treats to go with your cuppa. Karen shows me around. “We’re easily accessible for buggies and wheelchairs, and we’re breastfeeding friendly, which isn’t always the case with High Street cafés.” The children’s corner is stocked with toys and high chairs: “Our new vicar, the Rev James Hughesdon, often pops in with his young daughter.”

In the corner, an interactive History Box displays archive photos of St Paul’s – it underwent a complete transformation before re-opening in 2004 (see right). And a Bow foodbank box – stuffed with donated packets of pasta and tins of tomatoes – sits alongside, as testament to the community-mindedness here. Karen, Chris and the St Paul’s team mirror the essence of the café. They bring life, joy and a listening ear to those regulars who make it their local café and to those who simply pass by. Welcome to a heartbeat in Bow.

Transformation Built in 1878, St Paul’s Church stands a few steps from Roman Road Market. After closing in 1991 – due to safety concerns – it looked like it might share the fate of many inner city churches and be demolished or turned into luxury flats. Instead, the Parochial Church Council was galvanized into action; the ‘A New Heart for Bow’ project was born. The PCC’s vision was to see the church running once again as a place of worship and community life; £3.3 million was raised from over a dozen funders, Matthew Lloyd Architects re-modelled the interior to create a multi-purpose space, and the doors re-opened in 2004. Some 13 years after it had closed, St Paul’s was revived and ready to serve the community in fresh ways. From the outside the church looked familiar, but inside was a different story: the tall Victorian structure was transformed to incorporate a café, community space, offices – enclosed within a striking timber-clad ‘ark’ – and the Ability Bow gym perched in the roof.

St. Paul’s Church St. Stephens Road E3 5JL EAST3 2016 | 21

TOy STORy Annabel Spooner finds out from manager Pip Pinhorn that there’s much more to Toyhouse than toys On busy St Paul’s Way, the Bow branch of Toyhouse has a quaint charm not always found in community-based children’s centres. It’s a calm, yet exciting, atmosphere as I step into the toy centre. Manager Pip Pinhorn is warm and welcoming, and from the child-friendly kitchen comes the aroma of potatoes baking. Toyhouse is a place “parents can come to find the joy in parenting,” Pip says. And there is certainly a real sense of encouraging parents to enjoy being with their children. Rooms are stocked to the brim with toys and soft play equipment, whilst the main play area is being set up for a fancy dress party.

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They arrange everything, from lending out toys to parenting courses; there is also a wide range of activities, from cooking to crafts, breastfeeding groups and baby yoga. Educational home visitors are available for lonely and isolated mothers who find it hard to leave the house; another aim of Toyhouse is to enable mothers to get out into the community, even (if needed or wanted) into education. And the smell of the baked potatoes is a reminder that healthy eating is another aspect of the work here, along with the encouragement to get parents involved.

places: TOYHOUSE Toyhouse started in Shadwell 36 years ago, with the simple intention of building a community where isolated parents and children could be stimulated outside of their home. Today, Pip has a sense of pride in reflecting on the bridge that has been made between parents who might not otherwise meet socially. Parents build networks of support and make new friends: their children have quality toys to play with. “I remember a two year old who had just become a big brother,” says Pip. “Battling with the rivalry of a new sibling, he one day brought home from Toyhouse a big red truck which he took to bed every night for three months. That’s a far longer loan than the normal two weeks, but the truck served its purpose.” That little boy is now 22 years old, and the big red truck is back in the toy library.

Today the staff are all volunteers; they’re a strong small team who aim to provide what people want. A course is available for people who would like to volunteer and widen their prospects. Pip started working at Toyhouse “after I’d had my two sons. I wanted to do something that stimulated me and that I could bring my sons to, so Toyhouse seemed like the perfect solution.” Funding comes via the People’s Postcode Lottery and Children in Need; additional donations are always very much appreciated. “We aim to grow and stay around for as long as there is a demand for us and our services,” says Pip. “As long as there is a community it will be served in the most passionate way possible.” Toyhouse 92 St Paul’s Way E3 4AL

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Tranquil Haven Nooraini Mydin find an oasis of tranquility at Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park The morning sun slowly lifted the dense fog and, as if in celebration, a chorus of birdsong penetrated the silence. It’s hard to imagine we’re only five minutes away from the hustle and bustle of Mile End. I’m with some 20 enthusiastic conservation volunteers who have given up their Sunday to work in Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park. Within moments of the safety talk ending everyone had disappeared with tools to do weeding, bulb planting or coppicing. Like a treasure hunt, we trailed after Terry Lyle who went around with a spray can to mark the branches that needed cutting. Terry is vice-chair of the Friends. He retired as the park’s Environmental Education Officer in 2005 after 22 years but a decade on he still leads projects

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as a volunteer. Many of the volunteers are regulars but newcomers are always welcome, with friendships forged over a mid-morning cuppa. The drop-in sessions are held every Tuesday and on the first Sunday of the month. The tasks can be physically challenging, mentally refreshing and, for those new to the area, an opportunity to meet people. The 31-acre site was gazetted a cemetery park in 1966. The Friends formed in the ’80s, to halt destruction of the gravestones and preserve the history they embody; later, they began to manage the woodland for Tower Hamlets Council. Now designated a local nature reserve, the park is one of the best places in London to see butterflies, with 29 species recorded.

places: TOWER HAMLETS CEMETERy PARk “This place is important for a lot of people,” says Tess Pettinger, the Training and Learning Development Manager. “A mental health charity, Grounded Eco-therapy, runs special conservation and horticultural sessions, to provide therapy for people who have problems with mental health, drugs and alcohol addiction and homelessness. Being in nature helps with your wellbeing. Some participants have gone on to get gardening jobs.” The park also provides workshops to 8000 schoolchildren every year via the environmental education charity, Setpoint East. “Each year we run about 120 free events and 40 chargeable ones. There’s a free, guided walk every month, ranging from the park’s history to the flora of the site,” she explains. You can learn how to forage for wild food, or use special detectors to identify bat species. Or how about a photography session or wood-carving workshop? But there’s something else that’s getting Tess excited; next spring, the Lodge will be opened following renovations. “We’ll have an office, a community café, an events space and a workshop area. A crowd-funding campaign by Shuffle Festival raised £58,000 towards the third phase. “It will create a community space for mums and babies groups, a base for our events programme, and a venue that people can hire for events.” The Cemetery Park provides an oasis of tranquility in a bustling city. Take a look – and before long you’ll be trimming branches, spotting bats, or simply enjoying a woodland stroll.

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Healthy High street Healthy Community

Tabitha Stapley, the brains behind, tells Gynelle Leon why the high street is still relevant in modern London especially in the market, which could benefit from a wider range of stalls; it’s mostly fashion wholesale at the moment. We’re trying to encourage more food and produce stalls, and maybe have a vintage element, with second hand antiques and bric-a-brac. With all the new homes being built there’s a real need for furniture.

The Present It’s surprising the number of local businesses we have: 240 shops and 266 pitches at the Bow end of Roman Road. But there’s room still for improvement, 26 | EAST3 2016

A really thriving local economy provides quality jobs and community spaces. It’s great to have a lot of independent shops, as we do, as you’re supporting the local economy whenever you shop. High streets and markets are important for human interaction, especially as we live in an ever-increasing virtual world.

The Past

places: ROMAN ROAD

Roman Road was at its peak in the 1930s to 1980s when there were many factories around and no parking restrictions. But by the early 2000s it had become really miserable and a lot of businesses had closed. That’s what really galvanised our group to start and, since then, we have created a lot of positive buzz.

The Future In the past two years we’ve seen 10 new shops open, and the team are working on ideas to enhance the market – for example, back-toback stalls. We’re planning another summer festival in 2016 to engage residents with shops and stall keepers. It will be run by locals for locals, to encourage people to get curious about their area. We are trying to secure funding for a website with a shop directory so that shop keepers have a presence online, even if they don’t have a website; it would have a central calendar for events as well. We also want to continue to create really high-quality local journalism pieces that help us reach out to new people and raise our profile to show that Roman Road does exist and has things to offer. A good question to ask would be: if Roman Road didn’t exist, what would this community be like? I think the high street is the community. Now we have lost lots of community spaces, like pubs, the health of the community is, more than ever, directly correlated to the health of the high street.

Meet Tabitha Stapley • Tabitha is one of nine directors of the Roman Road Residents and Business Association (RRRBA). • A Bow resident since 1998, she has a background in journalism and digital media; founder of Stapely+Co, a digital content consultancy. Say hello if you spot her walking along Roman Road with her dachshund, Rita. • RRRBA is comprised of local volunteers: 4 bloggers and a pool of about 30 ‘friends of Roman Road’ who help with festivals, campaigning and business relations. To find out more, visit:

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Old Ford, New Church Karen Diss takes a look inside the new Methodist Church with community worker Sarah Grimshaw Some religious buildings never change: not so the Methodist Church on Old Ford Road which opened its doors in September 2015 to the third building to house the church in 150 years. Neatly integrated beneath a block of flats, with its front door on the corner of Armagh Road, some may see this as a somewhat incongruous place of worship, bemoaning the loss of the statuesque church buildings of our past and asking: “Is this the future of Christianity in Bow?” Possibly? Why not? Built from grey brick, with huge windows affording an unrestricted view of the interior, the congregation 28 | EAST3 2016

has plans for this fresh, new and versatile space. “Worship is the foundation of what we do, but we are always looking for new ways of being a church in the inner city,” says Sarah Grimshaw, the newly appointed Church and Community worker for Old Ford. She is excited about the latest reincarnation of the Methodist Church in Old Ford and has been in consultation with the congregation

places: METHODIST CHURCH about the vision for the future. Suggestions so far include a midweek service, moving away from the traditional Sunday morning service; a lunch club; space for hire; and a youth club, building upon a successful holiday club in October half term when young people explored themes and issues arising from Black History Month and mental health. The Methodist Church in Bow has a long history dating back to 1860, when the first Wesleyan Homes Missions Minister was appointed to the East End and lodged with his family in Tredegar Square. From that day to this, the Methodist movement, which views itself as both Christian and a part of London, has been reaching out to the most vulnerable members of our community.

With the new building, the possibilities are endless for a church that, in addition to conventional ministry, has founded over the years a range of social projects. Sarah is eager to get to know the wider community to ensure their needs are met too. What the church now does with the building is very much a work in progress. “For now,” Sarah says, “we are open as a place of quiet reflection, an oasis of peace and calm in an often chaotic world.” Amen to that!

The Methodists’ social ministries in the East End: • The Whitechapel Mission is open every day of the year, with up to 300 homeless and vulnerable men and women passing through its doors each day. • The Queen Victoria Seamen’s Rest at East India Dock Road provides accommodation for active and retired seafarers and servicemen. • The Zacchaeus Project offers advice, support and activities for carers, former carers and older people at the Walter Newby Centre, Approach Road. • Band for Life meets at Bow Road Church on Fridays. The two-hour band sessions are both rehearsals and a social gathering. Open to all local people, particularly those with mental health problems or who are socially isolated.

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Movement and Meaning Lucy Beacon discovers Fiver Fridays, festivals and film shoots at Chisenhale Dance Space Many Bow residents will recognise the former veneer factory that houses Chisenhale Dance Space. The organisation has been in the building since the early 1980s and it’s an established presence in Tower Hamlets. But besides the popular children’s classes, what goes on behind its redbrick façade? “Chisenhale Dance Space is a multi-purpose arts space,” explains Executive Director, Dr Justin Hunt. “We support children’s creative dance classes, adult movement learning, and research into performance arts.”

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Although the studios have always been a performance space, a new initiative has recently been launched by the staff and members: “Fiver Fridays is a

places: CHISENHALE DANCE SPACE low-cost way for people to engage with dance and movement practice”. For a £5 entry price, the audience can see a double or triple bill of the latest ideas in contemporary dance. The shows are open to all, though Justin warns that some of the performances have “adult themes and content – but we make that clear in advance”. Some events at the dance space are created to be accessible to all, particularly the family-orientated festival. It’s an annual event, held in spring, when the organisation opens up to the local community. They work in collaboration with the Chisenhale Arts Space, which is housed in the same former factory, and together the organisations create a multi-arts event. “The festival holds free workshops for local children and their families so they can engage with various arts practices,” explains Justin. Chisenhale Dance Space has evolved since it first arrived in Bow over 30 years ago and is now a member-led

organisation run by a small team of staff and volunteers. Anyone interested in learning more about contemporary dance “should pop into an adult class, or stop by any of our monthly workshops,” says Justin. The dance space is also used for filming – the iconic brick wall of the main studio makes it popular with directors. “Some exciting film and TV pieces have been shot in Chisenhale Dance Space,” Justin explains. “Michael Clark filmed his performance Hail the New Puritan here” and the space has also been seen in Made in Chelsea and Britain’s Got Talent. Chisenhale Dance Space recently celebrated its 30th anniversary. “The charm of Chisenhale is that a lot of it is historic,” Justin says. If you’d like to be part of their next thirty years, get in touch. Full details of classes, workshops and performances are listed at

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Back to School Bianca Philips learns a few lessons at the Ragged School Museum

A Victorian Experience As you walk up the narrow steps at the Ragged School Museum, you’re transported back in time to a Victorian classroom. Children from all over London – and beyond – have visited here for a taste of ragged schooling. They sit to attention at tightly packed desks on hard wooden seats. Writing implements, period clothes and a nononsense teacher is on hand to make this Victorian lesson an authentic one: chanting the times tables together, neatly writing the alphabet, the fear of having to wear the dunce’s cap.

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This atmospheric building gives children first-hand experience of the schooling system in Victorian times. At the top of the building there’s also an original kitchen, where you can see what life would have been like on the bread line. You might also spot it on the television or cinema screen – it has been used as a filming location for Sherlock Holmes and Arthur & George. And it’s regularly used overnight by a group of paranormal enthusiasts… spine tingling!


Dr Barnardo’s place in history

The Exhibition The museum’s semi-permanent exhibition gives an insight into the East End of London in 1866, when poverty, overcrowding and disease were rife. Director Erica Davies picks out the register from the London Metropolitan Archives: “In many cases, children were described as fatherless, which was the real catastrophe for women of the time, who would have struggled to survive.” Ragged Children, Mended Lives: Childhood, Poverty and Philanthropy in Late Victorian London has been created with a team from Queen Mary, University of London. As Erica explains, “It gives you a sense of the levels of destitution that were in the streets around that time.”

Originally a canal-side warehouse, the Ragged School Museum was saved in the 1990s by a group of people who recognised its place in East End heritage; Dr Thomas Barnardo opened his first ragged school here in 1872. Barnardo was a pioneer in the movement to provide free universal education for children from disadvantaged backgrounds.

“Doctor Barnardo placed a fire place in every room, to keep the children warm. As well as providing schooling, he clothed the children, and gave them shoes, which was a big thing. Here, we aim to tell that history in a vibrant way. It represents the long walk of everyman.” explains Museum Director, Erica Davies. Free entry – donations welcome Open: 10am-5pm every Wednesday and Thursday, and 2-5pm on the first Sunday of each month 46-50 Copperfield Road, E3 4RR EAST3 2016 | 33

Victorious Park Annabel Spooner discovers there’s more than greenery to Victoria Park, with Dave Hime and Joelle Copeland First off, why is it called Victoria Park? After Queen Victoria, who was sent a petition signed by 30,000 people of East London; they wanted a public park for their health and wellbeing. Which is why, ever since it opened in 1845, it has also been known – informally – as the People’s Park. And now we’ve just been voted the nation’s favourite park, so we’re still the people’s park. How does it serve the community today? There are so many users of the park. Joggers, dog walkers and cyclists use it every day. We’ve nine football pitches, cricket pitches, tennis courts and bowling greens. And we also run a lot of activities, local events for local people. For example, there are family fun days, and organised nature walks led by experts. Or, if you just want to sit and relax, there’s a summertime bandstand

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programme. There’s always something to see, or something going on. You might even spot the local police horses being exercised. Many older people can’t come into the park independently any more. So we run two tea dances a year. And we also have the Memoryscape audio trail which you can either pick up from the Hub or download from our website. You can walk round the park listening to local people reminiscing and telling you about points of interest. We run Family Fun Days six or seven days a year, and we also try to provide activities that children might not normally get the opportunity to do. Earlier this year, for example, we had a canoeing session on the lake. And last autumn, in one week, we had 17 primary school classes come in to plant bulbs.


A lot has changed since 1845. What’s the biggest difference that you can see? The east side of the park has been put on the map. It’s the bigger side, but it was under-used. Now we have the Hub, with its café and community room, the skate park and playground next door, and the lake where you can fish. But we’ve also looked back to our heritage by restoring the Burdett-Coutts fountain and re-creating the pagoda. The smaller, west side now has boats and pedaloes on the lake. Not every local is entirely happy with the festivals that run in the park. It’s always going to be a 50/50 thing. It’s the people’s park so everyone thinks the park belongs to them. It can be hard to balance everyone’s views but it’s a big space, and we always take a bond from the festival organisers to cover any remedial work that might be needed. The grass always grows back. And festivals bring in a lot of funding that help us provide free community events, such as the Friends’ Great Day Out which attracts over 2000 local people. Any scary moments? We had a Zombie Invasion last Halloween. In our ‘Park After Dark’ event, children worked their way through a haunted maze, seeking out the zombie antidote and encountering scares along the way. We had a fantastic team of 25 volunteers to help. The children called it “awesome” and “epic”! EAST3 2016 | 35

Good Neighbours Lucy Beacon goes behind the scenes with Sergeants Johnson and Bushell at Bow police horse stables Police horses are a familiar sight on the streets of Bow. The Metropolitan Police have had stables in the area since just after the First World War and the – very visible – presence of the Mounted Branch in Tower Hamlets is a welcome sight to most people in the borough. The British public’s passion for animals is a real bonus for the officers on horse patrol; they’ll often engage with residents in a way that their foot-patrol 36 | EAST3 2016

colleagues can’t. “When patting and chatting about the horses, it gives us an opportunity to pass on some information regarding gang issues, or any crime or police matters,” Sergeant Johnson explains. The officers at the Bow stables on Addington Road are currently focusing on combatting gang crime. “Often we’ll ride into an estate so there’s a hi-vis patrol. That can displace gangs or people who don’t want to engage with us.”

But the 12 horses housed there are not just East Enders: they have duties that take them all around London, including ceremonial work and public order control. Trooping the Colour, the State Opening of Parliament, the Lord Mayor’s Show and royal celebrations all benefit from the reassuring presence of the Met’s mounted branch. “It’s what we call the grey escort, when we escort the queen and those sorts of ceremonials,” explains Sergeant Johnson. He rides a grey himself – a horse with a white mane called Boris. This frequently raises a smile from those who link the names of horse and rider.


It’s not non-stop for the Met’s working horses though and they do get time to relax. Many Bow residents will have seen the officers exercising their charges in Victoria Park; they also get longer breaks in the countryside. “They can be turned out and have a couple of weeks’ holiday away from the hustle and bustle of normal police work,” says Sergeant Johnson. There are some characters in the stables, including Crest, who likes to kick around big gym balls, and Minty, whose party piece is picking up and stacking traffic cones. And, just occasionally, a police horse has been known to pinch a hat off someone’s head. The horses and officers are also used for public control work, including football games and marches in town, and are regulars at the rowdy central London New Year’s Eve celebration. At these events, the police have to use all their skills to keep the peace when it gets crowded. “Sometimes officers with loud speakers will start off a song to keep everyone entertained, and they forget why they’re waiting,” says Sergeant Johnson. So next time a police officer on horseback breaks into song, help them out and sing along. EAST3 2016 | 37

Build the Bow Way Cath Smith, Head of Bow School, talks to Heather Qualtrough about the link between architecture and education, for life and work Enter the sparkling, airy atrium of Bow School and be inspired by ideas of potential, possibilities and ambition. Seven sweeping, rainbowcoded staircases manage the peak flows. Good sightlines throughout the building and garden pick up any incidents. Plentiful glass ensures open learning – and fresh-smelling and easy-to-supervise ‘open plan toilets’ (a concept that needs to be experienced to be fully appreciated!) all create a sense of safety and ‘high visibility’, and 38 | EAST3 2016

encourage students to develop self-regulation in choices, learning and behaviour. As headteacher Cath Smith says: “We all have moments when we behave in a difficult way or make poor choices. Our children learn how to deal with this – that’s what you have to do outside”. Architecture is not accidental in education. The Building Schools for the Future programme transformed schools in Tower Hamlets, and their relationship with the community. Cath was in the “brilliant”

life: BOW SCHOOL position, when architects began work, to ensure the school was welcoming and inclusive. “It’s simple things that have made the difference,” she says. Moving from Bow Boys’ School was a “leap of faith” but it was part of “knitting us into the community”. Responding to criticism that employers feel students are not always equipped for life and work, Cath describes how education has moved from “offering little ambition and low standards in the 1980s to measuring progress rather than just attainment, which is as important for those who struggle but become successful just as much as those who cruise to success.” The school is proud of its range of alumni, including Wiley (the MOBO awardwinning ‘Godfather of Grime’) – someone “who had a passion and persisted with it”. From engagement with Business and Arts come specific skills for work, and for living with difference, diversity, and different abilities. Cath highlights key projects: the link with Bow Arts Trust (have you wondered about the scatter graph colours and designs on the fence?); Bank of America which supports financial literacy for younger students; the Rothschild mentoring programme, and its support for Sixth Form university applications; the remarkable Satellite Class partnership with the Phoenix School for students with significant learning needs. Such partnerships also encourage the expectation that local business has a reciprocal responsibility to the community. Looking forward “the building does give a strong message that this area values children and education”. A good school, and education, is more than

buildings, Cath recognises: “A lovely building and grumpy staff doesn’t work”. The memory of the former shabby building, and gratitude for the new, may fade. Architecture could contribute to transformed employment ambitions – Cath wonders if students will gain the confidence to no longer accept shoddy workplaces. Perhaps all of us will expect well-designed, open, inspiring architecture that complements and encourages learning and community in our borough. EAST3 2016 | 39

E DRAINS H T N A W ND O D Sheila Ozeer looks afresh at the local waterways with Ben Fenton from Thames21 Ben Fenton from Thames21 has always been interested in the outdoors: “I do lots of outdoor activities which makes me want to protect the world a bit more,” he explains when we meet at his base – a lock cottage by Bow Locks, beside the Lee Navigation. Thames21 is an 11-yearold environmental charity; it began by removing litter from the Thames but now it focuses on tackling water pollution in all the rivers across London. As Ben says, “our aim is to make rivers healthier, not just for people but for wildlife as well”. As the Fixing Broken Rivers Project Manager, Ben’s job is improving the water quality of the River Lea as it runs from Luton to the Thames; this includes the

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many small rivers, or tributaries, that feed into the Lea. What’s a ‘broken river’, I wonder? Rivers become ‘broken’ because of water pollution, much of which “tends to be invisible”; such pollution might be caused by waste fat from takeaways dumped down drains, and dodgy plumbing sending waste water from sinks or washing machines into the river. “Another cause is from the roads: oil, bits of old cars, rubber off tyres – when it rains, these get washed down the drains”. London’s Victorian sewers were built at a time when the population was much smaller than it is now.

life: THAMES21

S R E V I UP THE R The sewers can’t always cope with modern day needs; waste water from the capital’s 7 million residents, in addition to rain water, sometimes overflows into the rivers. The effects on wildlife can be huge. Fish can be starved of oxygen – “We’ve had several cases where large dead fish have been floating past the offices here,” says Ben. Oil and waste fat also gets in the birds’ feathers, affecting swans and other wildfowl. It’s not all doom and gloom. Ben and his colleagues at Thames21 are able to help ‘fix’ such broken rivers – or at least mitigate the effects of pollution – by installing reed beds and sustainable drainage systems (‘SuDS’). Reed beds are beautiful long grasses that provide habitats for wildlife and also break down pollutants. “We’re putting a floating reed bed just outside here in the next few months, it’ll be pretty much next to Bow School.”

SuDS allow water from the roads to flow and soak into them; the plants act like a water filter, breaking down the pollutants before the water joins the river. Ben proudly shows me a rain planter – a basic mini SuDS that he’s created beside his office. On a much larger scale, “the Lee Tunnel is opening very soon – a bigger modern sewer that will hopefully be able to cope with lots more sewage”. Ben finishes with three bits of valuable advice on what we can do ourselves to help eliminate water pollution: • Check your plumbing on • Get your vehicle fixed if it’s leaking oil • Use phosphate-free or eco-friendly products, such as shampoos and washing up liquid, for a lower impact Visit or follow ‘Love The Lea’ on Facebook.

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Building Trust, Brightening Futures Heather Qualtrough meets Prince’s Trust director, Dermot Finch “It was a big decision to move half of the Prince’s Trust staff from Liverpool Street to St Paul’s Way,” explains Dermot Finch – the Trust’s director for the South of England – “and it involved two years of fundraising”. But it’s already paying dividends; he’s delighted at the impact that they’re having on the prospects for local young people since opening in March. Why choose Bow? “Tower Hamlets has the ideal combination of resources: employment opportunities in nearby Canary Wharf and Westfield, for example; a densely packed residential 42 | EAST3 2016

area; and high numbers of young people seeking work and training.” Canary Wharf looms large on the horizon; “to some, it’s just a metal parade of banks, so we try to demystify it and help young people make the transition: to seize the opportunities in catering, retail, security, hospitality, administration, business.”

life: THE PRINCE’S TRUST The Trust’s gleaming new Morgan Stanley Centre – a “deliberately modern, fresh and trendy design” – certainly stands out, a patchwork in red and yellow. It already attracts about 100 young people a week: “we aim to inspire them to reach their potential in training or employment,” explains Dermot, “and to navigate the path from 14-19 when a lot of things can go wrong: family issues, mental health, depression, bullying”. The What’s On board in the reception area indicates the range of support available to make that journey, from ESOL and employability, to film and apprenticeships, and all dovetailed with essential IT skills for building CVs and making online job applications. “We help provide that bridge to move from an isolated bedroom to a job – a move that some young people might struggle to do on their own.” Whilst Dermot recognises the remarkable transformation in education, the local area “still has youngsters who struggle to achieve GCSEs, and that’s where we come in” – for example, with the popular five-week summer school that returns students settled and ready for their GCSE year. With older clients, the success of the Trust’s enterprise and business support is clear from the display case of products, including pottery, jewellery and fashion, as well as services offered

in catering, and childcare: about 1500 budding entrepreneurs are engaged with activities each year, split broadly equally between men and women. The Trust’s principles include: being approachable, non-judgemental, inspiring, empowering and having a passionate commitment to support young people, including those with a background of offending. “We’re interested in what people want to be rather than what they went to prison for,” says Dermot. “They are taken for who they are now”. Dermot is determined to build on the success seen already in Bow. For example, a GP practice is soon moving into the building, which will help spread the word about the Trust’s services locally. And nationally, the Trust’s story has been promoted via a 40th anniversary Ant and Dec documentary and an ‘Impact Report’ – using the stories of former beneficiaries to inspire other young people. It may be the next chapter in the life of the Prince’s Trust, but some things remain constant: valuing and inspiring young people to believe in themselves, learn useful life skills, and make the transition into rewarding occupations. Prince’s Trust Morgan Stanley Centre 124 St Paul’s Way E3 4QA

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STORIES FROM THE OLD SCHOOL ROOM Phil Summers – Associate Artistic Director of Applecart – talks inspiration, aspirations and creativity with Bianca Phillips What is Applecart? We’re a charity-funded, storytelling theatre company based in Merchant Street. Our live work is intermittent, and our main focus is on using stories to change the way people think. We realised that there are other people out there telling stories in different ways, for example storytellers or visual artists. We’re focusing on developing the space, working with the community centre and local people. What is the Old School Room? It provides affordable studio space to help connect creative artists and the local community; artists can set up

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a business and showcase their work. How did it all begin? Telling stories above a pub in Whitechapel. We did that for eight years. And then? We were connected with the church initially, who gave us funding to explore stories around the gospel. We needed to find something that was not religious, as we were not doing a classic take on the classic stories. One

of the main drives with the work we were doing was saying well, what do these stories actually say? What does it sound like outside of religion? What does it sound like as a philosophy or folktale? Or a story that’s important to our communities across the world?


And the name? Theatre in Britain used to be people telling gospel stories from the back of fruit carts. So when we pulled the name ‘Applecart’ out of a hat, it was a good connection. Also there’s the saying to ‘upset the apple cart’ – when you do things that are challenging – which certainly applies to us. How do you devise your pieces? Well, sometimes it’s a case of Peter (the co-founder of Applecart) and me sitting, laughing and talking for hours. We’ll work on anything that comes to us. For example, we’ve worked on Charles Dickens’ lesser-known Christmas stories and a national tour of I am Mark. We can approach community stories by looking at what‘s going on in the world, or from looking at local reports. One piece we devised looked at how the press, media and politicians view poverty, particularly those trapped in poverty. What do you want people to know? Watch this space! Applecart is tucked away on the corner of Merchant Street and is connected with the British Estate. We want to have a building where the community can tell their own story and they feel comfortable gathering, that feels like it’s something connected with the local community. Our long-term dream is to have a combined café, theatre and performing arts space that doesn’t feel like it’s landed from a different part of London. EAST3 2016 | 45

Right Tools for the Job Help is at hand for jobseekers at Circle Housing Old Ford, writes Nooraini Mydin Its humble location in the basement of a tower block belies the sterling work it does, providing a career lifeline for young people in Tower Hamlets. The Construction Training Centre (CTC) at the Locton Estate, run by Circle Housing Old Ford, provides a foothold in the construction industry for unemployed 18-25 year olds in Tower Hamlets. The six-month City & Guilds Construction Multi-Skills course led by training coordinator, Rick Levene, and tutors Finula McNulty and Luke Berry – which includes a two-week work

placement with building contractors – helps the students into a two-year apprenticeship scheme run by Tower Hamlets College and other further education providers. “We’re set up to help local young people into apprentice opportunities,” says Rick. “On completion of their training, we help them to get work experience and college placements. During their two-year apprenticeship they study for their trade specific Level 2 NVQ in carpentry or plumbing, and then into employment.” A similar course is held for women, and a taster day for Year 9 girls on International Women’s Day (8 March) aims to encourage girls into construction. The CTC also runs a course for Year 10 and 11 pupils who are underachieving academically. “If you’re not excelling in mainstream education, this is one of the routes you can take to get into a profession and earn more than university graduates,” explains Rick. The CTC – now in its tenth year – works throughout Tower

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Hamlets. Especially popular are its DIY courses for parents, based at the seven children’s centres in the borough; in early 2016, courses are running at the Mile End, Isle of Dogs and Wapping centres. “For a morning a week, these parents learn about blockages, leaks, tiling and painting,” explains Rick. A six-week evening DIY course for women also starts at Easter.

Justin Brett Advice and guidance officer

Hands-on experience at the CTC dovetails neatly with the broader support that Circle Housing is able to offer jobseekers. From his base on Parnell Road, Justin Brett helps Circle Housing residents who are unemployed and finding it difficult to get back into work; as the Information, Advice and Guidance Officer, he’s the man to head to for CV advice, help with job applications and interviews. He refers some clients, for example, to voluntary organisations to regain their confidence and get some work experience, whilst others join training courses in IT, Food Hygiene, English and Maths, or working as a Teaching Assistant. It’s first steps such as these that are often the route into paid work. “Last year alone we helped more than 100 people into employment,” Justin recalls with pride. Construction Training Centre: 39-56 Ollerton Green, Locton Estate, E3 2LB Information, Advice and Guidance Centre: Eastside Youth and Community Centre, 6 Parnell Road, E3 2RB EAST3 2016 | 47

Providing wartime meals at the cost-price canteen

Beyond the Blue Plaques Lucy Beacon discovers the hidden history of the Suffragettes The East End was an important area for women’s suffrage and there are blue plaques scattered around E3 that note important places and events. A toy factory in Norman Grove; the site of the East London Federation of Suffragettes on Old Ford Road; and a pub transformed into a nursery are all honoured with heritage plaques. However, there are two important Bow landmarks that, despite playing a significant part in the Suffragette movement, have failed to attract any official commemoration.

St Mary’s (which still stands in the middle of the highway) and, like many buildings in Bow, the church was ‘crumbling under corroding soot’. Along with her fellow Suffragettes, she then proudly ‘polished and cleaned the place till it shone’. Soon afterwards, Sylvia Pankhurst climbed a ladder and emblazoned the legend ‘Votes for Women’ across the fascia. Ever one to court controversy, she later recorded that she took ‘great pains to write it in early Roman characters and to gild it with true gold leaf’.

The first was moments from today’s busy Bow roundabout. In October 1912 Sylvia Pankhurst set off ‘down the dingy Bow Road’ which she wrote was ‘hideous in decay’ in the hope of finding a shop to rent as an East End campaign base. She chose number 198, a former baker’s, which stood on the south side of the street. She noted in her writings that it was opposite

Some months later, the Bow base for the Suffragettes was moved to a shop on the junction of Roman Road and Parnell Road. It was a former secondhand clothes shop which was in very bad repair: the window was broken and fixed with putty; floorboards were missing or rotten; and despite several fumigation attempts, the bed bugs were never fully eradicated. But

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Establishing an HQ on Bow Road

once again, the East End supporters of women’s suffrage rallied round and helped turn an empty and unloved space into a campaign base. It was from this address that Sylvia Pankhurst launched the Woman’s Dreadnought newspaper, which was sold and distributed from a stall in the Roman Road market. No trace of the former baker’s exists on the Bow Road today – the shop, and all the others in the terrace, was demolished in the 1930s by the London County Council. The Bow Bridge Estate now stands in the spot where people campaigned for women’s rights. The Roman Road shop has also gone – it too has been replaced by housing. Yet despite not being honoured with

Find out more: East London Suffragettes by Sarah Jackson and Rosemary Taylor (History Press)

blue plaques, these two sites were milestones in the struggle for equality, and their former inhabitants deserve to be remembered.

Campaigning in Roman Road Market

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A Café on a Mission Karen Diss gets a taste of life at Paper & Cup café Coffee shops are in abundance in Bow and you might think Paper & Cup was just another one. Not so! Winner of the prestigious Innovation award at the Lunch Business Grab & Go Awards 2015, this super café – run by the Spitalfields Crypt Trust (SCT) – has earned the tag line “An imaginative concept with a social enterprise.” Located within the St Paul’s Way Centre, Paper & Cup has comfortable seating with a spacious internet area; as its name suggests, it sells books as well as serving coffee, pastries, panini and tasty lunchtime snacks. What makes it different? Paper & Cup coffee-bookshops provide work experience and employment training for the long-term unemployed and for people recovering from addictions. “It’s a fascinating place, where people meet to be sociable and have fun,” explains volunteer Lily, “yet, the staff have once been in a place of great difficulty.” 50 | EAST3 2016

One such staff member is Mick, who has worked at Paper & Cup for 30 months now and loves it. Mick approached the SCT five years ago seeking support for addiction. He joined their creative writing and art classes before going on to volunteer in the Trust’s café in Shoreditch. “No disrespect to barristas,” he said candidly, “but I don’t think it takes a lot of skill to make coffee”. Many coffee lovers would disagree. Either way, it has been a journey for Mick, who bears testament to the SCT vision: “Offering a professional and safe environment where people can grow, learn and move on.” He admits to feeling a connection and sense of loyalty to the SCT: “As an employee, I’m part of the team.” There is pride in his voice. 83 St Paul’s Way, E3 4AJ

listings: A SHOT OF COFFEE

wake up and smell the coffee The Coffee Room It might be the witty chalkboard musings outside that first catch your attention – “I need a six month vacation, twice a year” – but it’ll be the coffee and cheery service that keeps you coming back to this Italian hotspot in Mile End. Nip in for a double espresso on your way to the tube, linger for longer over a lunchtime quiche or butternut squash salad, or enjoy a post-work Prosecco, with ham and artichoke canapés. If the sun’s out, there’s a back yard to spill into. Look out too for their new sister site, the Pizza Room, a few doors along. 6A Grove Road, E3 5AX

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Chesterfield For work, there are tables; for rest, sink into one of the deep leather sofas; for play, there’s a separate area for children beyond the bookcases. This double-fronted café – once the estate agents – is a popular new addition to Roman Road. Do remember to keep a space for the delicious cakes made locally, while you try the bulging, freshly-made sandwiches, or something from the menu of breakfast options – both hearty and lighter – including avocado, salmon and pancakes. 345 Roman Road, E3 5QR

Mighty Bite Don’t rush past this tiny, recently refurbished Bow Road café run by Kenan Fehim and his wife; white tiles and double glazing help keep it clean and fresh, quiet and cosy. Perch on a stool and tuck into one of their very good Mighty Bite value meals – an Olympic breakfast, liver and bacon, a sandwich or snack, served from early morning until lunchtime. Ingredients are always fresh – a salad in winter is no problem – and you’ll hear customers piping up, “compliments to the chef”. Linger over the photos of Old Bow, or while away the time checking out the coffee-bean themed discs and vinyl clock. 123 Bow Road, E3 2AN

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Fika Inside the cool Swedish interior is a warm ‘Hej’ greeting from friendly staff. All the baked goods are prepared at the sister restaurant in Brick Lane and served with a smile in Bow. Enjoy Scandinavian sweet and savoury dishes with a British twist. Look out for cinnamon bullar buns or almondy Mazarin cake. Coffee is brewed using their unique roasted blend and can be drunk in or taken away. 414 Roman Road, E3 2RZ

Kiki With a warm and inviting atmosphere, Kiki offers its wall space to artists who want to sell their work, so you are always looking around with interest to see what new and colourful work will be displayed. Try out the value-formoney all day breakfast, a bacon baguette, pasta specials or a well-filled jacket potato. Or pop in for coffee and a slice of homemade Italian torta. Fresh, flavoursome and friendly. 516 Roman Road, E3 5ES


listings: A SHOT OF COFFEE



Still seeking a caffeine fix?

This clean and bright corner café is busy with diners, sitting on colourful chairs and tucking into their tasty meals. The Asian chef and Italian owner produce hearty, freshly cooked dishes such as egg-n-bacon breakfast wraps, tuna melt sandwiches, and chicken escalope with mozzarella and mushroom – all set unfussily on lovely, large white plates. 576 Roman Road, E3 5ES

Space doesn’t allow us to cover all E3 cafés, but take a look at these other hotspots: Bean About Town Outside Bow Road tube station, E3 4DH Carmelite Café, Bows Arts, 183 Bow Road, E3 2SJ Fiesta 546-548 Roman Road, E3 5ES Gardiner’s 630 Mile End Road, E3 4PH Mono 535 Roman Road, E3 5EL Muxima 618 Roman Road, E3 2RW Orange Room 63 Burdett Road, E3 4TN Park Café and Pavilion Café Victoria Park, E3


Ariana With a garden terrace at the back – good for people watching across Mile End Park – Ariana is a well-established Persian and Afghan restaurant and café. Try the reasonably priced fresh salads and mezze for a light meal, or the generous, freshly grilled Halal meat dishes – especially lamb skewers, stews and chops. All rounded off with a great mint tea. The friendly staff cope with busy evening and lunch crowds, and the flexible seating quickly adapts for smaller, more intimate groups.

Roman Road Art Café 357 Roman Road, E3 5QR Zealand Coffee Shop 391 Roman Road, E3 5QS

2 Midlothian Road, off Burdett Road, E3 4SE

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find those happy feet Swing Patrol Learn to dance like in the olden days at the Royal Inn on the Park. Yes, we know this isn’t in E3, strictly speaking, but as it’s just a hop, skip and jump to the north side of Victoria Park we reckon it merits a mention. The friendly teachers break the steps down into easy stages, and you’ll soon be tackling the Lindy hop or Charleston using boogie backs, caterpillars and heel digs. Great music, lovely people, loads of fun. No partner needed. £8 on the door. Tuesday nights: beginners class 7.15pm; improvers 8.15pm; intermediates 9.15pm. Royal Inn on the Park, 111 Lauriston Road, E9 7HJ

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Bee Fit Pilates

Line Dancing

Line Dancing with Young@Heart Nowhere near as easy as it first appears, a class led by unflappable and super- patient Lyn will exercise both your legs and your brain. Beginners start in the front and middle of the studio so that they can follow both the instructor and the experienced dancers at the back. Tuesdays at 12.30pm. Mile End Leisure Centre, 190 Burdett Road, E3 4HL

Hena’s Zumba Combine fitness and fun at this Latin-inspired cardio-dance class in a striking setting. Instructor Hena’s infectious energy encourages Hena’s Zumba a friendly atmosphere. It’s fast-paced with repetitive steps suitable for all ages. Prepare to be challenged. Drop-in class £5. Tuesdays and Thursdays at 6.30-7.30pm. St Paul’s Church Old Ford, St Stephen’s Road, E3 5JL

Bee Fit Pilates A dynamic form of exercise that focuses on balance, posture, strength and flexibility, it’s also good for stubborn bulges. Classes are held in Victoria Park Baptist Church on Tuesdays and Thursdays, from beginners to intermediate, and are suitable for people of all ages and fitness levels. Victoria Park Baptist Church, 186 Grove Rd, E3 5TG

East London Dance School

East London Dance School Specialising in the Cecchetti method of dance – which helps students improve flexibility, coordination and musical awareness – the school offers ballet classes for children and adults. Either drop in on a Thursday evening for the adult class, or buy a 10-class pass. ‘First Dance’ tuition is also available for couples planning to tie the knot. Chisenhale Dance Space, 64-84 Chisenhale Road, E3 5QZ

Kundalini Yoga And for something slightly more relaxing… try this uplifting blend of spiritual and Kundalini Yoga physical practices, incorporating dynamic breathing techniques, movement and meditation. The goal is to build physical vitality, increase consciousness and stimulate the mind. Indira’s classes on Thursday evenings are in the peaceful meeting hall of St Paul’s Church Old Ford. St Paul’s Church Old Ford, St Stephen’s Road, E3 5JL

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seek out a specialist The Peanut Vendor The name gives nothing away: this vintage shop-cum-café specialises in pieces of 20th century furniture alongside an eclectic mix of object d’art for the home. Expect minimalist candlesticks and Welsh wool throws amidst a gorgeous array of cacti, candles and bowls. Stock turns over frequently, and hot items are snapped up; on our visit, we spotted Arne Jacobsen bentwood chairs, a rocking chair, and a mustardcoloured 50s sofa. Alongside the displays, there’s a wi-fi café area serving high-end pastries and coffee, with outside seating when weather permits. Pop in for coffee, and come out with a retro nest of tables or filament lamp. 6 Gunmakers Lane, E3 5GG

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listings: SPECIALIST SHOPS Roman Tackle

T&L AquaWorld

T&L AquaWorld Tropical and coldwater fish have been sold at this Roman Road aquatic emporium for over 20 years. Pond and aquarium equipment is stocked, along with a good range of water treatments and heaters. The shop also provides a home or office custom-made aquarium and filtration service. Fish food, stones and tank accessories are on hand too. 439 Roman Road, E3 5LX

Gina’s Closet On the corner of Vivian Road, the contents of the closet spill out onto the pavement. Gina’s Closet Enough to tempt you Gina’s Closet inside to a mix of second hand vintage, retro and modern items sold at affordable prices. Search around to discover some amazing one-off items of clothing, furniture, lighting and jewellery; an Aladdin’s Cave that Antiques Roadshow fanciers will love. 371 Roman Road, E3 5QR

Hook a fishing favourite at this specialist angling store or be inspired by Roman Tackle their display of whoppers that didn’t get away. You can also stock up on rods, bait and boilies, weatherproof clothing and tents – everything the amateur angler needs. Cast off and land some pukka kit. 624 Roman Road, E3 2RW

Neon Sign Store Light up your life with a specially designed neon sign. This store produces commercial work: stylised artwork such as a wall-size map of Britain, smaller pieces created to mark a special event, or perhaps just a jazzy new number Neon Sign Store sign for your home. Best to contact the artists via the website, but in any event enjoy the glowing works in the windows as you pass. 10A Grove Road, E3 5AX

Thompson’s DIY This well-stocked hardware store sells household goods, paints and gardening equipment, with a while-you-wait key cutting service on site too. Replacement brassware, plumbing spares and other essentials are available off the shelf or can be ordered if not stocked. A gem of a find for DIY enthusiasts. 442-444 Roman Road, E3 5LU Thompson’s DIY

Cake Box

Cake Box Delicious egg-free cakes can be bought off-theshelf, or made fresh to order, at Cake Box. A good selection of wedding, birthday and special occasion cakes can be ordered in advance. Names can be iced onto some ready-made cakes while you wait. Platters are also available to make any party’s buffet look and taste a treat. 449 Roman Road, E3 5LX

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revive your wardrobe Sew Amazing If you’re overcome with a creative urge to create your own fashions then look no further than the aptly named and easily found, Sew Amazing. Buttons and bows, beads and spangles nestle amidst wool, knitting needles and every sewing gadget under the sun. There’s a range of sewing machines and owner Rob is a font of knowledge and inspiration. Established in 1947 and still stitching away, this is knitters’ and sewers’ heaven! 80 St Stephen’s Road, E3 5JL

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listings: FASHION Jakss

Anchor and Hope Soon-to-be-mums will find stylish maternity wear here… and when the baby arrives, there’s a selection of cute outfits for the little one. They also stock unique and fun homeware, accessories, stationery and prints that are designed and made by local artists and creators. 363 Roman Road, E3 5QR Anchor and Hope

Jakss Stocking baby and children’s designer clothes from around the world, such as Ralph Lauren, Juicy Couture, Moncler, Stone Island, Paul Smith and Little Marc Jacobs, to name but a few. Their range spans from newborn to teenager, and you can also pick up accessories and footwear to complete the look. 469 Roman Road, E3 5LX




From the outside this small shop at the St Paul’s end of Roman Road Market looks like any other scarf shop. But beyond their colourful display, they sell traditional clothing from south Asia, long dresses, Western clothing, scents from Saudi Arabia, beauty products and henna. There’s a stall outside the shop on market days. 509-513 Roman Road, E3 5EL

Step inside this designer boutique to discover womenswear, menswear, jewellery, gifts and homeware with an Afro-Scandi flavour. Owner Angela Knowles also sells her own-label exclusive designs, and a dressmaking service is available. We’re not alone in liking this place; it was voted best Bow shop in the ‘Time Out Love London 2015 Awards’. 451 Roman Road, E3 5LX Shikdar

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THANK YOU We owe a huge thank you to all of the Bow community workers, small business owners, artists, shopkeepers and residents who agreed to be interviewed, and supported and encouraged us along the way. We’re also grateful to the venues that hosted us during our workshop sessions: Circle Housing Old Ford, St Paul’s Way Centre and St Paul’s Church Old Ford.

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Capturing the Inside Stories of Bow This Insiders’ Guide to Bow has been created collaboratively by a dedicated group of local people: nine journalists and four photographers, all living in E3 or working in Bow-based community groups. However well we thought we knew Bow at the outset of our project, we all discovered something new as we ventured out on assignments. We hope you enjoy reading about the remarkable activities and places on our doorstep, here in E3. We’d love to hear your feedback – email us at Thank you to all of our interviewees and everyone else who supported and encouraged us along the way. And a special thank you to Action for Bow, the London Borough of Tower Hamlets (Public Health) and Circle Housing Old Ford for their funding support. Graham Barker and Liz Baume Project coordinators

Sheila Ozeer

Gynelle Leon

Sarah Grimshaw


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To view East3 and our other publications online, visit

He ritag e


Annabel Spooner

Karen Diss

Natalie Clarke

Valentina Bertolini

Christine Hall

Jim Rainbird

Bianca Philips

Photo credits Natalie Clarke (page 4-5, 26-27, 31, 34-35, 63), Valentina Bertolini (page 2-3, 4-5, 6-7, 14, 20-21, 22-23, 28-29, 36-37, 50, 52-53, 58, 60-61), Christine Hall (pages 2-3, 4-5, 13, 18-19, 25, 33, 52-53, 57, 60-61, back cover) and Jim Rainbird (front cover, pages 2-3, 9, 10-11, 12, 3839, 40, 42-43, 60-61, 62-63).

Heather Qualtrough

Lucy Beacon

Additional photos courtesy of Bianca Philips (page 2, 8), Norman Gosney and Amelia Kallman (page 3, 16-17), Thames21 and Julia Briscoe (page 3, 40-41), Nooraini Mydin (page 24), Roman Road (page 26-27), Whitechapel Mission (page 29), Chisenhale Dance Space (page 30), Sue Pattison (page 30), Ragged School Museum (page 32), Victoria Park (page 34-35), Applecart (pages 44-45), Circle Housing Old Ford CTC (pages 46-47), Tower Hamlets Archives and History Press (pages 48-49), the Coffee Room (page 51), Ariana (page 53), Swing Patrol (page 54), Bee Fit Pilates, Hena Akhtar, Siri Lakshmi and Young@Heart (page 55), The Peanut Vendor (page 56), Neon Sign Store (page 57), Anchor and Hope, Baruch and Jakss (page 59). Design: Paul Lindt at

Graham Barker and Liz Baume

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Profile for Walk East

Insiders' Guide to Bow 2016  

Bow is bursting with life; there are remarkable things going on, if you take the time to look. In autumn 2015, a group of Bow residents an...

Insiders' Guide to Bow 2016  

Bow is bursting with life; there are remarkable things going on, if you take the time to look. In autumn 2015, a group of Bow residents an...

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