I have been supporting the O’s for nearly 40 years and have been Theo since January 2012. Having know the Chief Exec for approx 15 years and also knowing the previous Theo, I was asked if I would like to take over as the previous Theo had been performing that role for 10 years and wanted to take a break. I am a director of a Facilities Management company in London and am married with two children and live in Waltham Abbey, Essex.
What do your friends and family think?
They all think it is funny and want me to get on the TV whenever possible. When I tell friends and family they don’t believe me at first and just recently one of my clients published pictures on their internal portal , saying guess who this is!
What is a wyvern and why is it the Orient mascot?
A Wyvern is a legendary winged creature with a dragons head and is the clubs crest/badge. It has been asked on numerous occasions why it is the clubs emblem and the long and the short of it is that a competition was run in August 1976 where two individuals came up with two similar designs. The then O’s chairman (Brian Winston) completed the final design. It is said that it is half dragon, half Serpent, with the dragon representing the crest of the City of London and the Serpent representing Orient’s connection with the Sea (orient shipping company & P&O group).
Best part of the job
High fiving and cuddling David Mooney before every home game as a good luck ritual seems to be working! I also find it funny how so many grown men want a picture with Theo. Is this weird? Am not sure but they obviously like it…….
Match day routine
Turn up at the club at 2pm, walk round to the changing room that is the old refs rooms in the old main stand, squeeze into the suite and start entertaining Theo’s fans. Normally this kicks off from 2.20pm with lots of photographs and high fives with fans from the North Stand. Make my way round the other three sides of the ground before waiting for the players to come out at 2.55pm. The game then starts and I stand in the corner trying to get involved with the cheering and signing with a little jig from time to time.
How hot/uncomfortable is it in the suit?
I find the suit nice and cosy in the winter but very very uncomfortable in the hot weather. Certainly good for keeping trim! It takes only a few minutes to put on and take off, easy when you know how…..
Who are your friends/enemies among the other mascots in League One?
Doncaster mascot is great and very friendly. The Swindon mascot is off his rocker but a nice fella. No enemies other than Elvis the Eel and Sammy the Shrimp at Southend as they are our arch rivals.
Would you ever be a mascot for another club?
I am an Orient Fan and admit I am no professional mascot. It is important to me to get Theo into the community and spread Leyton Orient as a club as far and wide as possible. If I wasn’t a mascot for Orient I wouldn’t be a mascot anywhere else and would be back in my seat in the West Stand.
Prospects for the Play-Offs?Anything can happen and nothing surprises me in football. So I say why not until it is mathematically impossible.
I have been supporting the O’s for nearly 40 years and have been Theo since January 2012. Having know the Chief Exec for approx 15 years and also knowing the previous Theo, I was asked if I would like to take over as the previous Theo had been performing that role for 10 years and wanted to take a break. I am a director of a Facilities Management company in London and am married with two children and live in Waltham Abbey, Essex.What do your friends and family think? They all think it is funny and want me to get on the TV whenever possible. When I tell friends and family they don’t believe me at first and just recently one of my clients published pictures on their internal portal , saying guess who this is! What is a wyvern and why is it the Orient mascot? A Wyvern is a legendary winged creature with a dragons head and is the clubs crest/badge. It has been asked on numerous occasions why it is the clubs emblem and the long and the short of it is that a competition was run in August 1976 where two individuals came up with two similar designs. The then O’s chairman (Brian Winston) completed the final design. It is said that it is half dragon, half Serpent, with the dragon representing the crest of the City of London and the Serpent representing Orient’s connection with the Sea (orient shipping company & P&O group). Favourite memory High fiving and cuddling David Mooney before every home game as a good luck ritual seems to be working! I also find it funny how so many grown men want a picture with Theo. Is this weird? Am not sure but they obviously like it……. Match day routine Turn up at the club at 2pm, walk round to the changing room that is the old refs rooms in the old main stand, squeeze into the suite and start entertaining Theo’s fans. Normally this kicks off from 2.20pm with lots of photographs and high fives with fans from the North Stand. Make my way round the other three sides of the ground before waiting for the players to come out at 2.55pm. The game then starts and I stand in the corner trying to get involved with the cheering and signing with a little jig from time to time. How hot/uncomfortable is it in the suit? I find the suit nice and cosy in the winter but very very uncomfortable in the hot weather. Certainly good for keeping trim! It takes only a few minutes to put on and take off, easy when you know how….. Who are your friends/enemies among the other mascots in League One? Doncaster mascot is great and very friendly. The Swindon mascot is off his rocker but a nice fella. No enemies other than Elvis the Eel and Sammy the Shrimp at Southend as they are our arch rivals. Would you ever be a mascot for another club? I am an Orient Fan and admit I am no professional mascot. It is important to me to get Theo into the community and spread Leyton Orient as a club as far and wide as possible. If I wasn’t a mascot for Orient I wouldn’t be a mascot anywhere else and would be back in my seat in the West Stand. Prospects for the Play-Offs? Anything can happen and nothing surprises me in football. So I say why not until it is mathematically impossible.
Twenty-seven year-old actor Ashley Bowden made his professional debut as Macduff in Macbeth in 2006, before landing a role in Heartbeat a year later. Having starred in everything from Journey’s End to Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, his current role as Drab, a travelling storyteller, brings the popular children’s book series Horrible Histories to life at the Hackney Empire.
TELL US A BIT MORE ABOUT HORRIBLE HISTORIES AND YOUR ROLE IN IT
The concept is a travelling show where three characters, including Drab, act out the awful, horrible bits of history while the fourth character, Mistry, wants them to focus on the good parts, so there’s this long-running battle throughout.
DO YOU THINK IT’S IMPORTANT TO REVEAL THIS HORRIBLE SIDE OF HISTORY TO CHILDREN?
I think it’s best to let children decide for themselves. It’s an honest portrayal of what the Tudors and Victorians were like, but there is balance too.
WHAT’S IT LIKE PLAYING SO MANY PEOPLE?
It’s great fun. Henry VII is my favourite character to play. He’s so excited about being King that he just wants to get rid of anyone who’s a threat – get rid of Richard, stick his head on a pole somewhere and bury his bones under a car park. When you focus on the nasty bits it’s great.
THE BOOKS HAVE SOLD OVER 25M COPIES. HOW WOULD YOU EXPLAIN THEIR POPULARITY?
It’s the level of honesty I think – kids like being told something they perhaps haven’t been told before. At a base level, I think it’s also because it’s quite gruesome and violent -it’s historically accurate but it’s not a boring classroom lecture. It’s like wow. Elizabeth I killing Mary Queen of Scots in such a horrible way is actually part of our history.
YOU’VE BEEN TOURING SINCE JANUARY. DO YOU ENJOY IT?
It’s so lovely seeing all the different parts of England: last week we were in Blackpool, this week we’re in South End, and next week we’re in Hackney. Hackney’s perfect for theatre – being just outside the West End they can push the boundaries a bit. I’ve seen some fantastic stuff there.
WHAT’S YOUR FAVOURITE ROLE?
Probably the one I’m playing right now – Drab. He loves everything, so every time I go on stage I get to have a big smile on my face, jump around and be funny.
Of course through Drab, I also get to play historical characters – as well as Henry Tudor, I’m a woman on trial, next I’m Francis Drake. It’s hugely fun.
WAS THERE A PLAN B?
That’s a hard question. It would definitely be something involving drama – either working with kids or spending more time running my theatre company, BHM, which provides young kids with the professional experience they need for an acting career.
By Rae Boocock and Antonia Molloy
By Keval Dhokia
The bank of London and the Middle East (BLME) – the largest Islamic bank in Europe – is investing £20m in the development of a mixed residential and commercial hub in Wenlock Road, Hoxton.
The company overseeing the construction – a Tower Hamlets subsidiary of One Housing Group – said 68 new flats and a brand new shopping area will be created.
One Housing Group manages thousands of homes in London and says that this project marks its first drive into more expensive professional accommodation, but the move is unusual for a company normally associated with social and affordable housing.
The complex will add to the growing focus on technology-oriented professional residence and business space around the Silicon Roundabout area of Old Street. The site on Wenlock Road has been dormant for some years and is classed as brownfield.
Alice Myers, head of property finance at BLME, said: “Hackney is an up-and-coming area that is increasingly attractive to young professionals due to the affordable property prices, the growth of the technology sector, and its proximity to the City and central London.
“The new, affordable housing and commercial properties will ensure that more young professionals and companies are drawn to the area and its redevelopment continues.”
The provision of the facility follows a series of property investments in London by the BLME, bringing its total expenditure to around £75m over the last few years.
The figure makes it one of the biggest mid-market multi-project investors in the development of London outside of the major financial institutions.
Tech City has been growing in size and concentration as the premier cluster for the technology industry in Britain. The Tech City Investment Organisation (TCIO) coordinates investment and development in the Hoxton and Old Street area and has welcomed BLME’s development.
TCIO property specialist Juliette Morgan said: “At Tech City our aim is to help support the spirit of enterprise created organically by the east London community.
“The introduction of accommodation targeted at Tech City entrepreneurs is testament to the success of the cluster and an endorsement of the potential for more jobs as companies develop and grow.
“Such developments help to attract talent and enliven communities, which are welcome additions to the ecosystem.”
“We knew we’d win that game.” Michelle Wilson’s confidence unnerves me. The head coach for Hackney White Heat oozes assurance. Speaking after her side’s last victory in the London Metropolitan Women’s Basketball league, she says: “The first quarter was a bit tight, but we clinched it by halftime. They just couldn’t catch up.
“Southwark Storm had been winning more of their games, so we weren’t sure what the club had done to improve – whether they had added to their squad or if they were just playing better as a unit.”
But, once the Hackney team got into a rhythm, the match was theirs for the taking.
Hackney White Heat, though currently placed third in the league table, have three games in hand on the teams at the top of the league, and Michelle was not surprised by her team’s 67-38 victory on Friday night.
“If you look at the table, Southwark have played more games than us. But if you look at the statistics, we’ve only lost one game. That’s why they’re at the top of the league – because we haven’t played our games yet,” she says.
“We’ve played everyone once, so now we just need to think, let’s go out and beat everyone again. We’ll know by next week, after our back-to-back games, whether we’ve won the league.”
Hackney White Heat also smashed Southwark Storm Women 78-29 in the quarterfinals of the Cup last month, and are set to face Westside Senior Women in the semi-final.
The team – mostly unchanged since 2012 – are raring to achieve the unknown in women’s amateur basketball. The team hopes to retain both the Cup and the League this season, for the third year in a row, cementing their dominance in women’s basketball.
Hackney White Heat has taken 40 points so far and has a staggering goal difference of 384 – the highest goal difference in the league by over 200 points.
“We are a high scoring team. We’re not just winning these games by a small margin; we are continually getting a big score on the board. The goal difference is probably lower than last year, but it’s a decent scoring record,” Michelle says.
All the women who play for White Heat are aged over 21. Michelle has one student in her team, but the rest are all working, and half are mothers. “It’s really inspiring. Particularly when a lot of people say ‘now I’m pregnant, my sporting life is over’. Instead, these women say ‘I can get fit again; I can come back to basketball, and play, and win’.
“There’s no sense of baggage with these players. Because as hard as it is for them, they play basketball well.”
Michelle founded the team in 2004 with a group of local women after she realised there was nowhere near where she lived for women to play basketball.
“I was first inspired to play by Joe White. I was training with him and his team but he didn’t have a ladies’ team. He inspired me to play. So, I said to him, why don’t you start a girls’ team? And he said, ‘yeah, in due time’. But then, it never really happened because he passed away. That’s when I decided to start the club,” says Michelle.
In 2009, the team – originally called East Side Heat – merged with White Heat’s Men and have got bigger and better ever since. The team has one training session every week. But Michelle wants to increase the number of training sessions.
Her next plan is to get teenage girls interested in basketball. “It’s going to be a tough project. If you give a boy a ball and a hoop, then they’re sold. But girls are a bit different, it’s harder to keep them interested. It’s going to be challenging, but I’m going to give it a good go.”
Should schools do more? “Well, for boys, that works. You get them at a young age and they just continue. But with girls it’s different. I didn’t start playing basketball until I went to college. I played netball. I got bored of netball, and thought, I want a bit more action and moved across to basketball. I’ve loved it ever since.”
So could Hackney White Heat do it this year? If Michelle’s confidence is anything to go by, it certainly looks possible.
A LITTLE rickety independent bookshop on Broadway market, The Broadway Bookshop, is probably not the first place one would go to watch a play. But as I arrive and notice the seats are plonked anywhere and everywhere, facing in no particular direction, I can tell this won’t be a conventional play. It was certainly written by an unconventional woman – the great, late Sylvia Plath.
This is Off the Page theatre group’s adaptation of Plath’s 30 minute radio play, ‘Three Women’. The three actresses are positioned among the audience – some facing, some not – so that hearing is the main sense used. Once they start, they use their voices to convey the rhythmic poem in which three women relay their different experiences with pregnancy and motherhood.
Ben Bazell from Off the Page says that they decided to go back to the original listening format after a period of performing it as a stage play: “In the stage production the three women were in a row under three spotlights. There was a lot more movement. But I like it better like this. It’s more stripped back.”
‘Three Women’ was the last play Plath wrote before her death – she killed herself a year later. An inescapable heartbreaking sorrow at being a mother is evident throughout the play; these are issues that were not so acceptable in the 1950s and 1960s when Plath was writing.
The play is far from upbeat. The darkness of Plath’s words and her almost rejection and discomfort with her own motherhood is potent. The cluttered bookshop backdrop adds a layer of intensity to the incredibly claustrophobic weight of the words. But that extra layer represents Plath’s work as it was – raw, sad and beautiful.
Leyton Orient will be forced to move from the stadium it has called home for 75 years if it loses the judicial review into the bidding process for the Olympic Stadium, according to chairman Barry Hearn.
The Matchroom Stadium, on Brisbane Road, has been home to Leyton Orient since 1937. It has survived the Blitz, the Iron Curtain and the financial crisis. But now, it could be “crushed” by Sam Allardyce’s premiership side.
The decision on whether West Ham will be given the 60,000 Olympic Stadium is due to be announced this week. Orient fans warn that if the Hammers move up the road from the O’s, their potential fanbase will flood to the premiership side, leaving them no option but to relocate.
At a London press conference on Wednesday, Hearn said that if West Ham moves to the Olympic Park it “would put me out of business”.
The judicial review, announced by Hearn two weeks ago, argues that the O’s bid to ground share with Premier League club West Ham United was wrongly dismissed. Hearn suggested that there was a breach in process made by the London Legacy Development Corporation, when it dismissed the club’s bid for the £429m stadium.
Hearn said: “If I lose the judicial review, I have got to walk [away]. That’s it. It must stop – I can’t do anything else.
“I have fought a really good fight. I’ve cost people a lot of money and spent a lot of money myself but I don’t regret it because I think I am in the right.
“If I stay [at Brisbane Road], I will get crushed. And I am not prepared to see a club that is 130 years old, that reaches more kids than another other in the country through the community schemes, get crushed.”
Hearn admitted that he does not have a specific location in mind for a new site for Leyton Orient.
He said: “Harlow has been mooted, Romford has been mooted, off the A13 down by the Docks… Barking way.”
Orient, who had no previous plans to relocate from the Matchroom Stadium, applied to groundshare in the Olympic Stadium with West Ham. Hearne said that his side’s proposal was wrongly dismissed by the LLDC and represents another failure of Olympic Legacy.
He said: “This is a long running process. But, until they get it right, I’m really not going to sit down and let someone steamroller all over my little football club.
“If West Ham moves into the stadium, with a double capacity, 60,000 crowd, and offers cheap seats, I’m going to be put out of business. After 130 years, I’d like Leyton Orient to stay in business.
“We’re suggesting a ground share with West Ham, but we don’t seem to be getting much support from the LLDC, or from Boris Johnson, or from anyone who purports to care about the community.
“So we’re fighting our corner, as we would always do from the East End. We may lose, or we may win, but we’re not rolling over.”
Mat Roper, Editor of the Pandemonium Fanzine and Orient supporter for 34 years, said: “The Olympic Stadium saga has been nothing short of a farce. Since day one there was obviously no long-term plan for the stadium post Olympics, although many forget that Orient were the first and only club who were in talks with the authorities long before the stadium was built about potential ownership.
“Will we have to move? A very big question this one of which the O’s support seems somewhat split. Personally, I would love to stay at Brisbane Road. We have been there for over 75 years and I have been attending football there since my first ever visit in 1978.
“It would be soul destroying if the move was to somewhere such as Harlow. I would prefer to stay as close to our current ground as possible but obviously any move just up the road from Leyton would be exactly the same as staying put.”
Luke Gregory, 25, who has supported the O’s for 20 years, said: “We can’t attract new fans if a premiership club is offering discount tickets on our doorstep.
“Put it this way – do you shop at your local grocers or go to Tesco? That’s the reality of this move.
“I wouldn’t want to, but we’ll have to move if West Ham win the bid for the Olympic Stadium.”
IT TAKES a special sort of determination to defy poor form and find a performance amid the claustrophobia of euphoric, expectant home support.
Christine Ohuruogu’s 400m silver at the 2012 London Olympic Games was nothing short of astonishing.
Written off entirely following a set of indifferent results, she maintained faith in her world-beating ability and flew through the final straight to ransack the podium. In the end, a repeat of the sensational gold she won in Beijing was just 0.15 seconds away.
Given the scale of that achievement – and the fact that it took place about a mile from where Ohuruogu grew up – the 28-year-old would be forgiven for sentimental reflection.
But that’s not her style. Based in Florida until May for a warm weather lead up to the new season, Ohuruogu has moved on. Looking back on her third Olympics, the pervading emotion is relief rather than self-satisfaction.
“Every athlete had waited for the Olympics for seven long years,” she says. “Once they had gone, it was a nice surprise that the world didn’t collapse. There was life afterwards – the sun rose again and you carried on working.
“The notion of a home Games was what made it so difficult – the support was amazing but the pressure was, too.
“For me, London was the hardest thing I will ever have to deal with in my career and I can now go on with my life and move on. I am in a completely different headspace now.”
If Ohuruogu seems stoical in retrospect, an uncompromising competitive spark is not far below the surface. Sure enough, it emerges quite quickly at the mention of critics.
“My medal was testament to self-belief,” she says. “I read all the reports and heard the commentaries – nobody thought I could do it.
“That just proved to me that you shouldn’t even listen to what others say – the only people that matter are the ones that believe in you.
“Having said that, I came to win and defend my title. I didn’t manage that, which is something I’ll never forget.
“I certainly went there and did best job I could have done on the day, though.”
Although admitting that a main reason for the West Coast camp is to ensure competitors do not leave her behind, Ohuruogu is reluctant to discuss any rivalry with Sanya Richards-Ross, the American who triumphed in London.
Such a relaxed, non-confrontational facade may alter as August and the World Championships in Moscow come closer, bringing a chance to enhance an already heaving haul of major honours. But calm is on the agenda for now.
Beginning 2013 with a gentle run-out over 60m and 200m at Sheffield’s UK trials, the start of this month brought encouraging success at the European Indoor Championships in Gothenburg.
The senior statesmen of a victorious 4x400m team that included Eilidh Child, Shana Cox and the exciting Perri Shakes-Drayton, Ohuruogu was just as delighted with the strong showing of her teammates in the individual event.
“I was really proud of the girls over the whole weekend,” she smiles. “Perri won the gold, Eilidh got the silver and Shana made the final.
“It was a tough ask for them to run the relay just a couple of hours after the final – it was really gruelling and they did a super job.”
Somewhat self-effacing – her third leg was pivotal as Great Britain’s girls held off Russia – Ohuruogu seems in ambassadorial mode. Even with a major meet such as Russia on the horizon, she insists that the day-to-day with coach Lloyd Cowan is enough to keep her motivated.
So will this prolonged training period impart a tactical change as Cowan has already suggested, doing away with Ohuruogu’s tendency to start slow and haul her way back with 50m to go? The cards are close to the chest on this one.
“I am fortunate enough to have made it to three Olympic Games, winning two medals,” Ohuruogu finishes boldly. “That’s a hard enough feat in itself.
“I trust Lloyd, so if he thinks something should be changed, that’s great. But one of his sayings is ‘If it isn’t broken, why fix it?’”
By Romil Patel
Police investigating two serious stabbings which took place in Lower Clapton on Wednesday evening have arrested two people.
They were called to the Pembury Estate at about 5.30pm yesterday.
The two victims – who cannot be named for legal reasons – were taken to an east London hospital.
One of them, a 16-year-old, is understood to be in a serious but stable condition and the second, a 15-year-old, is stable. It is not yet known if the two attacks are linked.
Any witnesses or anyone with information that may assist police should call 101; if you wish to remain anonymous call Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111.
By Antonia Molloy
More than a quarter of all social housing in the borough does not meet the minimum standards defined by the Government’s Decent Homes Programme.
Hackney Council promised to ensure that council homes met a set standard by 2012, but has achieved this in less than 75 per cent of cases.
A council spokesperson, speaking to the Hackney Citizen, said: “As of December 2012, 73.83 per cent of our rentable stock was ‘decent’ (as per decent homes definition). This equates to 16,798 homes.”
The Decent Homes Programme was introduced by the Labour party in 2000 and originally aimed to ensure that all social housing, as well as vulnerable households in the private sector, met fixed standards of decency by 2010.
However, in November 2009, the completion date was extended to 2018-19 after the National Audit Office claimed that there were weaknesses in the Government’s programme, which created a risk to value for money.
In a 2010 report, Hackney Council vowed to achieve this benchmark by 2012, but a new bidding system saw the council receive £61m of funding covering the years up until 2015, which was £40m less than the amount required for completion.
A council spokesperson said: “The council is proposing to allocate £10m of its own capital resources in 2013/14 to top up the backlog funding”.
By Spencer Thompson, Economic Analyst, IPPR
At budget time, it’s often difficult to sort through all the announcements and work out what the real impact will be. In between shifting money between different areas of Government, giving away a little bit on beer duty here but paying for it with mysterious ‘underspends’ elsewhere, by the end most people don’t know whether they will be better or worse off.
But the sad fact is that, for Hackney, the real impact of this budget will be largely non-existent. It will do little to improve the prospects for the local economy, will not ease the financial pain of Hackney’s poor, and does nothing to address the long-term problems the area faces in terms of housing and youth unemployment. Given the crisis the UK finds itself in, is this really the best we can do?
Firstly, this budget will do little to jumpstart the economy. Everybody knows the UK is performing terribly, and this is starting to put pressure on people’s wages and standards of living. So what impact will the budget have? Well, the Office for Budget Responsibility, the independent body tasked with assessing the state of the nation’s finances, is pretty crystal clear: yesterday’s budget will have ‘no impact’ on the economy in the long-term. Anyone hoping for a spurt of growth from the Chancellor’s announcements will be disappointed.
Secondly, its impact on the poor. Much was made by the Chancellor of his decision to raise the personal allowance – the amount you can earn before you start paying tax – to £10,000. But the fact is, this does little to improve the lot of the poorest, many of whom are earning less than the personal allowance anyway. In fact, it is the richest 10 per cent of families who will gain the most from this change, with their annual incomes boosted to the tune of around £100 by 2016.
Hackney is one of the poorest areas in the country, and many of its residents are set for a tough few years as a result of coalition policies. The decision to cap welfare increases at one per cent, made in December, will see 200,000 more children living in poverty in the UK, and the poorest 10 per cent of households losing over £150 in 2016. The announcements made yesterday do little to reverse this.
The ‘help-to-buy’ scheme, which will lend people money to help them move onto the property ladder, appears to be a good idea but has some serious risks attached. In east London especially, where developers and investors are rapidly buying up property, further money pumped into the market risks raising house prices and rents even higher, pricing out many existing residents.
But one of the most worrying pieces of news yesterday was not even in the budget. The latest jobs statistics were released and showed that youth unemployment has risen sharply in the three months to January, and is now dangerously close to having a million young people out of work. Beyond any changes to taxes and benefits, it should be of huge concern to policymakers that we are continuing to fail those just starting out in the world of work. Without a serious effort to tackle this issue, Hackney – with its nationally high levels of youth unemployment – risks seeing a generation of its residents out of work and facing an uncertain future.
Yesterday’s budget was largely smoke and mirrors, with small changes here and there, but little real ambition to fix the UK’s long-standing issues. Sure, the price of a pint may have gone down by 1p, but the poorest families will find little comfort in the measures announced yesterday, especially as the full impact of the coalition’s cuts become clear.
By Charlie Morgan
An ecletic art hub has found refuge in Hackney Wick after being forced out of its Islington premises.
Hajni Semsei, 38, and Nimrod Vardi, 31, who founded Arbeit – a company which provides space for artists – were evicted from their property in Bunhill in favour of a large commercial art gallery, despite spending £8,000 of their own money on the venture.
Ms Semsei said: “It was easy to get rid of us. The gallery promised the landlord they would invest £100,000 in the building. How can you stand up to that?”
Ms Semsei – who works part-time as a commercial lawyer to fund the project – insisted Arbeit was “moving on and learning from our struggle”, but that the drawn-out conflict was “an emotional time”.
She said: “It takes six months to establish yourself as an art space and for people to get to know you.”
But Arbeit’s new Hackney site on White Post Lane – a 3,000 square foot area featuring a large gallery alongside several smaller individual studios – is finally ready to house clients.
Ms Semsei said: “Our opening earlier this month was the start of a series of exhibitions that will take place every three months.
“In April, we are holding a discussion on pop-ups. We also want to give pragmatic advice about finding office space, both from our own experiences and with the help of other speakers.”
Ms Semsei has already held meetings with casting agencies and comic book producers eager to take advantage of Arbeit.
“We will soon be busy with creative business people,” she added. “The quality of the building is great.
Arts & Entertainment
‘Are you having a laugh?’ by Rainbow Theatre Company
An old-time music hall variety show by one of London’s longest standing disability theatre companies. Expect joined twins, drag acts and an amazing memory man.
21-23 March, 6-8PM
Hoxton Hall, N1 6SH
0207 012 1760 Check their website.
House of Amau
The Black and Ethnic Minority Arts network hosts a fundraising variety event including comedy, African drumming and live music.
24 March, 6-11pm, £5
Hackney Attic, E8 1HE
08717 042068 For more information, check this website.
Performance of Creation, arguably Haydn’s greatest masterpiece, by a 60-strong community choir and the Haydn Chamber Orchestra. Wine and refreshments available.
24 March, 7:30-9pm, FREE
St John of Jerusalem Church, E9 7HA
07790 000490 For more, click here.
Am I just an idea between the tape and the wall?
Join artistic educator Alexandra Hughes for a family workshop with a scientific twist: investigating artworks from everyday materials. Suitable for 5-15 year olds.
24 March, 2:30-4pm, FREE
14 Wharf Road, N1 7RW
020 7490 7373 Check here.
The launch of a new kids’ guide to fun stuff to do in the area. Under 16s welcome to come make a Hackney postcard, try street performance and much more.
27 March, 4-6pm, FREE
Dalston CLR James Library, E8 3BQ
020 8356 8949 This is their website.
See the books brought to life on stage with groundbreaking 3D special effects. Find out what the terrible Tudors and vile Victorians were really like.
29-31 March, £10-20
Hackney Empire, 291 Mare Street, E8 1EJ
Community and events
Women from Palestine
Meet, listen to and discuss daily life with women from all over Palestine. Organised by Hackney Beit Sourik Friendship Association. For ages 11-100.
21 March, 7:30-9:30pm, FREE
Halkevi Centre, E8 3DF
020 8802 4604 firstname.lastname@example.org
Scared to Dance
Music journalist (and Caitlin Moran’s hubby) Pete Paphides guest DJs a strictly vinyl-only evening of the best indiepop, nu-wave and lo-fi for those who want to dance the night away. Over 18s only.
22-23 March 10pm-3am, £4-6
Moustache Bar, 58 Stoke Newington Road, N16 7XB
07934 015330 Take a look here.
Easter baking and decorating
It’s nearly Easter time so come and learn how to bake a tasty cake. Return on day two to learn how to decorate the cake so it tastes as good as it looks. Over 18s only.
27-28 March, 6pm – 9pm
St Mary’s Community Centre, Kent Street, E2 8NU
Health and Fitness
Challenge friends and family at all your favourite sports: three throws basketball, standing long jump, speed bounce, shuttlecock hula, forward rolls on a beam and many more. Complete five challenges to enter the prize draw.
24 March 10-3pm, FREE
Britannia Leisure Centre, N1 5JU
Relax and unwind at a drop-in Iyengar yoga class with a fully qualified experienced teacher. The class is general level so some yoga experience is necessary. Over 18s only.
Sunday 24 March 2013, 10.00am – 11.30am, £9 per class, equipment is provided.
Hackney Forge, 243a Victoria Park Road. Entrance Off Banbury Road, E9 7HD
Contact: David O’Neill: email@example.com
Courses and workshops
Refresh your Wardrobe – simple sewing alterations
Breathe new life into your clothes without having to spend a fortune. Bring in old items of clothing and learn how to take seams in or out, hems up or down, replace fastenings, patching, upcycling and more. Over 18s only.
Sunday 24 March 2013, 2pm – 4.30pm, £30/£25 concession
Fabrications, 7 Broadway Market, E8 4PH
020 7275 8043 firstname.lastname@example.org
Revamp your old furniture with Out of the Dark
Learn how to transform your old items of furniture as social enterprise Out of the Dark teaches skills such as sanding, waxing, painting and finishing.
Saturday 23 March 2013, 3pm – 5.30pm, £30/ £25 concession
Fabrications, 7 Broadway Market, E8 4PH
020 7275 8043 email@example.com
Police seized 20 vehicles across Hackney for not being insured last week.
Three people were arrested, one for driving offences and two for intent to supply cannabis.
Chief Inspector Joseph Stokoe said: “The majority of our stops are quick and enable us to check documents and insurance.
“Our intention is not to search a person or vehicle unless we have grounds to do so during the encounter. I would like to thank residents for their support in this operation.”
The penalty for driving a vehicle without insurance is six penalty points and a £200 fine, with a possible driving ban.
According to the Motors Insurers’ Bureau, uninsured drivers increase other drivers’ insurance premiums by £30. They are also five times more likely to be involved in road collisions.
A WOMAN with strong links to multiple jihadist networks lives on our doorstep. Ruksana Begum, whose two brothers are in jail for planning Mumbai-style terror attacks on British landmarks, was jailed in December for being in possession of materials useful to terrorism. She was recently released, but her whereabouts were incorrectly reported in the press last week. In fact, Begum is a resident of Hackney, living at an address on the Provost Estate, Hoxton.
It can also now be reported that Ruksana Begum, 22, is the wife of notorious extremist Jahangir Alom, who pleaded guilty on Friday to being part of a possible plot to attack Royal Wootton Bassett – the town that pays tribute to dead British soldiers – and to assassinate the chiefs of MI5 and MI6.
There is nothing to suggest that Begum herself has engaged in terrorist activity. But the revelation that she is wife to Alom, 26, of Stratford, adds to her already close association with jihadists.
In July 2012, police investigators found two editions of Al-Qaeda’s Inspire magazine on a micro SD memory card in her mobile phone, in a raid on Begum’s London address.
The magazine included information on handgun training and how to detonate bombs remotely.
Begum appeared in court in December where she was sentenced to one year in jail after pleading guilty to possessing a record of information likely to be useful to a person committing or preparing an act of terrorism.
During sentencing, Mr Justice Fulford said: “She is clearly moving in the milieu and some of those close to her have serious Jihadist outlook and, certainly as far as her two brothers are concerned, terrorist intentions.”
But in summing up her case, the judge said: “This defendant, with other members of her family, was devastated by the arrest and later imprisonment of her brothers for serious terrorist offences.
“The family, which was previously respected in the community where they lived in Cardiff, was ostracised. She is of good character and a good Muslim.
“There is no evidence that she was motivated by their ideology or was preparing to follow them. She had damaged what could have been a potentially blossoming future by committing these offences.”
Begum’s defence team said: “She accessed this material, which is easily accessible, before coming to London to understand the background and ideology which led to her brothers’ incarceration.
“She is an intelligent and articulate young woman who does not share the views of others who do not care.”
Begum was recently released after having already served half of her sentence – most of it while on remand – and is now said to be living back on the Hoxton estate.
Her husband Alom pleaded guilty at the Old Bailey on Friday to preparing for terrorism, or assisting another in terrorism, as part of a two-year long plot involving a possible plan to attack Royal Wootton Bassett.
Alom and Begum married in June 2012 and moved from Cardiff to London – with Begum living in Hoxton. Their honeymoon period was cut short when they were both arrested in July on terror-related charges.
Alom pleaded guilty to the charges alongside white British Muslim convert Richard Dart, 29, of Broadway, Ealing, and Imran Mahmood, 21, of Northolt that occurred between July 2010 and July 2012.
Dart is an ex-BBC security guard who changed his name to Salahuddin al Britani. He was allegedly converted by Anjem Choudary – a notorious hate cleric who suggested would-be terrorists should go on “Jihad Seekers Allowance” so they could focus on extremism instead of getting a job.
The trio admitted to plotting possible attacks on MI5 and MI6 chiefs and on Royal Wootton Bassett, the small town that has become well known for residents lining the streets to pay tribute to dead British soldiers.
The Old Bailey heard on Friday that in a message conveyed by one suspect to another, ‘WB’ was discussed, which police have interpreted to be Wootton Bassett.
One of the men said: “Yes, yes, WB, if not that then all combatants. It is that or even just deal with a few MI5 or MI6 heads.”
Alom had planned to join Dart on a trip to Pakistan for training in terrorism. Instead, in July 2012 he was arrested after a long surveillance operation at an address near the Olympic Park.
The court did not hear details of the allegations on Friday, but the trio have been remanded in custody for reports and will be sentenced at the end of next month.
By Alexander Penn
IT SEEMS the horse meat scandal hasn’t put off Hackney locals as horse burgers at a Dalston pub sold out in under six days, giving the boozer its most successful week ever.
The Three Compasses on Dalston Lane was set to sell the meat for a special one-off week but had to stop early after selling out.
Almost 170 burgers were sold, 50 of which went within the first three hours on the first night last Tuesday.
The Lord Nelson pub in Southwark has been selling horse burgers since the start of the month, at a rate of 100 a week.
But Michael Brown, the Three Compasses’ chef, said his pub had “nearly doubled” this figure.
“Eating horse meat is catching on and I’m sure lots of people will be doing it over the next year. I hope we’ve done our part in bringing it to the family table,” he said.
Mr Brown said that some customers couldn’t tell the difference from beef.
He said: “In light of the horse meat scandal, people want to come and try the meat for real. Horse meat’s cheaper than beef because of demand, so it would be cheaper overall for families.
“British eating is boring. Anything other than chicken, lamb, beef or pork is deemed ‘alternative’ or ‘different’.
“I think it will become a household thing. It’s just another meat to eat.”
The special horse burger menus, designed with a spoof of toy brand ‘My Little Pony’, advertised such variations as the ‘Shetland’, a mini burger, and the ‘Trojan’, a triple. Prices ranged from £4 to £11.
The horse meat was sourced from nationally-regulated provider Kezie Foods which specialises in exotic meats. It is “less fatty and more flavoursome” than beef.
While Mr Brown got the idea for his menu from the discovery of equine DNA in supermarket beef burgers earlier this year, he also sought inspiration from his upbringing in Gloucestershire.
“I grew up in a house where my mum and sister were horse-mad and it carried some problems. It brought financial strain and a lot of time was spent looking after them. I thought, at that point, if you can’t beat them, eat them,” he said.
But the 31-year-old chef, part of pop-up burger outlet StephenFriesBurgers, said he won’t be dishing up any more horse for the time being to avoid becoming a “one-trick pony”.
He said: “There’s a possibility in the future of getting more horse in but we’re going to give it a rest for a bit.
“I’m a brave eater and so are our customers. Watch this space, you never know what trick we’ve got up our sleeves.”
Award-winning artist Akala has attributed his passion for the arts to the Hackney Empire. The rapper spent much of his childhood at the theatre where his step-father worked.
Commenting on the Hackney Empire he said: “There’s a really strong link between that institution and my love of the arts”.
The MOBO winning hip-hop artist, who grew up in nearby Archway in North London, is the founder of The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company, a group that produces workshops which celebrate links between Shakespeare and groups such as the Wu-tang Clan and KRS-One. Akala believes that while Shakespeare is interesting to study on a page, his words must first be seen and performed, just like hip-hop music.
“If you take some hip hop verses, like the Wu-Tang Clan song ‘Better Tomorrow’, it’s really interesting to look at. We use one of the verses from that song in the workshop and we look at how it’s written and rhythm it uses. But in and of themselves, those lyrics weren’t written to be consumed that way.”
He explains that the work of the Bard is the same: “Shakespeare was entertainment, it was meant for the masses. He wrote performance poetry, therefore you have to see it performed, you have to feel the rhythm, someone has to give it life. It’s not something where you sit down and read it without seeing and understanding it beforehand.”
“People see Shakespeare as the prim and proper Queen’s English type of speaking that we see in Elizabethan films. But he was writing during a time of poverty and under-development. ”
Akala pushes those attending his workshops to take pride in intelligence, believing education to be society’s stepping stone, especially for those from disadvantaged communities.
“Education is the only way out for those from a tough background, and I don’t mean in the individual sense of go and get a degree and get a job, but anything you want to change in your life or in your self, you’re going to have to understand about the problems first. And education is the answer.”
However, his workshops appeal to all backgrounds and The Hip Hop Shakespeare Company frequently work abroad, travelling the world to show the links between the playfulness of Shakespeare’s language and hip-hop music.
“It completely varies, we don’t restrict ourselves to ‘hard to reach’ communities. I come from a supposedly tougher background and I obviously feel a responsibility to people like me, but we teach in schools and universities across the country, and the world.”
Fiercely political, Akala’s rap lyrics encompass modern social problems, class and race, and discussions on how the world can change for the better.
His new, yet to be titled album, looks like it will play on this combined love of poetry and political activism:
“There is a lot of political satire and poetry on this album about the random things I see in day-to-day life that if we can’t necessarily change right now, then we can at least articulate the problems, and we can at least take the piss out of those that we think brought us to that place.”
By Keval Dhokia
Diane Abbott, shadow public health minister, spoke scathingly about the rise of fast food outlets near schools earlier this year, but an investigation by the Hackney Post has discovered that the MP’s own public health authorities are in disarray.
Following a host of complaints from residents alarmed by the rise of fast food outlets, Abbott attacked both the industry and parents for their lack of concern over the safety of local children’s diets.
But at a public meeting on Tuesday, Diane Abbott was forced to admit to the Hackney Post that: “Hackney’s public health regime is a shambles, and it frustrates me because of the work that I have been putting in on the issue on a
“It’s the Government’s fault for bringing in these changes; people are not clear who’s in charge.”
All local authorities are required by law to have a joint director of public health. Despite this, the post in Hackney has been vacant for at least two months, leading to confusion over who is in control of health for the borough.
The council said an interim director, Lesley Mountford, is charged with overseeing the transition from the City and Hackney Primary Care Trust (PCT) to the council. However, ten months in, both authorities have persisted in passing responsibility when asked who is in charge of looking at the effect of the rise of fast food outlets on issues such as
A spokesperson for the PCT said: “The Government’s health and social care bill, reforming public health management across the country, was given royal assent in May last year. Since then, we have been in a transitory period where responsibility is being transferred from us to the council.”
David Woodhead, associate director of health and wellbeing, the only other bureaucrat charged with overseeing Hackney health, has been “on personal leave” since November 2012, and will not be back on the job until April.
The council conceded that it was unsure who had responsibility for public health issues arising from the glut of fried food shops. A spokesman said: “At the moment, we are waiting for the legislation to come into effect on 1 April. Until then, we are concentrating on preparing ourselves to deal with these serious issues.”
Fears have been compounded by a report published in February in the British Medical Journal which shows a causal link between the consumption of fried food at a young age, and the development of lifelong illnesses such as eczema and asthma.
The prolonged delay in policy creation has led to public health officials focusing solely on the regulation of hygiene in fried food shops rather than combating poor child nutrition.
Smoggy Hackney is being forced to clean up its air pollution after it was revealed that some of the borough’s roads exceeded EU emission limits by 300 per cent.
According to Robert Tyler, Hackney’s principal pollution officer, the borough has one of the worst concentrations of nitrogen dioxide and particulate matter, such as dust and smoke, in London.
The main hotspots for harmful gases are Victoria Park Road and Old Street, while areas in northern Hackney are cleaner.
A six-month Cleaner Air Champion initiative was launched at a meeting of officials and concerned residents at Stoke Newington Town Hall on Monday.
Project leader Katie Meakin, of eco-friendly charity Sustrans, said: “When people think air pollution, they think 1950s smog. Nowadays we can’t see it, we can’t feel it, so it’s hard to understand and even harder to get the message across that this is still a problem that needs addressing.”
Sixty-three per cent of nitrogen dioxide emissions in London can be attributed to transport, 16 per cent from heating buildings and the rest come largely from the construction industry.
According to the Greater London Authority and Hackney Council, air pollution cost over 4,000 lives in 2008 and is closely linked to respiratory illness. They also estimated that it costs £2bn annually through hospital admissions and absences from work.
Katie Watson, air quality officer at the GLA said: “We don’t want to cause alarm: for most people air pollution won’t cause many problems.
“The quality of our air is improving; the last 15 years has seen a huge reduction in air pollutants. We are only now becoming more aware of the problem because we know more about it.”
She added that busy roads surrounded by tall buildings, such as Euston Road and Marylebone Road, are the most concentrated areas of air pollution and only sustained exposure is likely to cause serious damage to health.
Mr Tyler said: “If everyone walked or cycled in Hackney air quality would be better and people would be healthier.”
Sustrans is now seeking 10 volunteers to become Cleaner Air Champions. The position involves conducting one or two activities each month such as tree planting, promoting walking and cycling, and giving advice on home insulation.
Sustrans will provide training and induction as well as access to a £10,000 fund, provided by the Greater London Authority.
Mayor of Hackney Jules Pipe has accused the Conservative Party of supporting the mass deportation of the poor from rich boroughs such as Kensington and Chelsea to poorer boroughs like Enfield and Hackney.
In a speech criticising the forthcoming benefits overhaul, Mr Pipe warned that the Government’s policies are forcing the poor into London’s underprivileged areas.
“Rich western boroughs have been praised for their reduction in housing allowance claimants. Westminster has seen a fall of 16 per cent and Kensington and Chelsea a fall of 27 per cent.
“But poorer ones like Enfield and Newham which have seen claimants rise by 27 and 37 per cent have felt the brunt of this evil government’s policy of social cleansing.”
The conflict stems from work and pensions secretary Iain Duncan Smith’s welfare bill which will see housing benefits rise only by inflation – as opposed to rent inflation – leaving claimants worse off and unable to afford their rent.
Meanwhile, Labour MP Diane Abbott was aggressively heckled by a group of constituents who blame her for the massive influx of immigrants under New Labour, which they say caused the welfare bill to balloon.
The protesters shouted: “You’re lying, we want you out!” Before they were forced out by security.
Defending her party’s immigration policy before they were ousted in the 2010 general election, Abbott said: “I am tired of hearing that immigrants are a drain on the public sector. Think about the make-up of the public sector here in Hackney. Without immigrants there would be no public services in London.”
Hackney Community Law Centre’s Wendy Pettifer said: “The difficulties people are finding with the benefits system cannot just be blamed on the Conservatives, Labour’s Yvette Cooper began the welfare reforms and we shouldn’t forget that.”