Monday, May 04, 2015

Meet Your Local Farmer

From the Organic Ilford Newsletter:

Alice Holden is the Head Grower at the Growing Communities Dagenham Farm. She spoke to OI! about why it's so important to support organic farms.

Q: How did you get into farming?
A: After university I worked on my dad's farm as well as on a farm down the road. During that period I realised that farming organically was a job that can combine nurturing people and environment. Rather than seeing it as a stop gap I realised it was what I wanted to do.
Q: What are some of the differences between conventional farming and the kind of farming you practice at Dagenham Farm?
A: Organic farming, unlike conventional farming, tries to minimise environmental pollution. On our farm the only pollution comes from the 16 miles I drive once a week to sell the veg. In terms of growing we don't spray crops with pesticides and we feed plants with compost rather than energy hungry man made fertiliser. Thus we avoid polluting our watercourses and wider environment. Another difference is that organic farming involves more people and more labour. This increase in labour adds to a farms diversity. Organic farms tend to have more people, wildlife and varieties of crops making them richly diverse habitats for all.
Q: What kind of impact has the farm had on Dagenham?
A: The farm has had a massive impact. It has provided a place where people can volunteer and get a sense of purpose. The farm gets a lot of support from the community. It gives people access to learning about growing healthy food. Local school children visit the farm. It provides the opportunity for people to learn about food, nature and cycling organic waste on their doorstep. This opportunity would otherwise not be available as there is nothing like it nearby. Our proximity to where people live allows access to these things.
Q: What has surprised you the most since you've been working at the farm?
A: Definitely the amount of time people want to spend at the farm. People really want to access organic food and they want it to be affordable. I assumed it would be hard to sell organic in this borough but the demand is high. Unfortunately right now there aren't enough outlets. Sometimes people pay a premium for organic at a shop but the closer our outlets are to the farm, the more affordable we can make the produce as we do not have to add the costs of packaging and transportation. I want the food produced in the borough to be affordable to the local populace.
Q: Why is it important to support organic farms?
A: Buying local, organic food supports a system of agricultural which has a positive affect on the environment instead of polluting it. The more people that support organic farming the bigger the impact it can have in creating sustainable models of agriculture that can be replicated. We need sustainable models of food production if we are to continue to feed our population.
Q: You mentioned that organic is better for the environment. What kind of impact does a farm like Dagenham farm have on labour?
A: Dagenham farm is part of Growing Communities, an organisation working to create trade models that are fair to producers, such as local box schemes. Re-localising supply chains is part of the way they create transparency in terms of treatment of environment and workers. There was recent media about how much of our salad crops are grown by unfairly treated workers in Southern Spain. When the supply chain is long it is harder to know how people have been treated. Shortening and simplifying the supply chains allows for more transparency regarding how food is grown and how workers are treated. Increasingly large food retailers disconnect us from the treatment of workers and the environment. Places like Dagenham Farm allow consumers to reconnect.
Interested in visiting the farm (map here) and meeting Alice? There is an open day the second Wednesday of May (13th). Starting in June, open days will be the first Wednesday of every month.

Saturday, May 02, 2015

Captain Bob’s Music

At the excellent RAFA club on a Friday night. On tap we have Captain Bob, a light and fruity ale from The Mighty Oak brewing company in Maldon, Essex and using hops from our commonwealth cousins in New Zealand. Once a month, as you may have noticed from our Notices & Events page, the Redbridge Green Fair Music Club put on a show with young, emerging and sometimes local musical talent. And very good it is too.

Here’s All the King’s Daughters, all the way from Amsterdam, stopping off for a gig at Ilford’s very own version of the “Cavern”.


And just to surprise you there is an extra one next week on May 8th featuring HeadSpace & Moorby Jones. Then on Saturday 9th there is the Valentines Mansion May Fair where you will be able to hear Storm in a Teacup and Blackhorse as well as watch Standard Women's Morris, Chingford Morris Dancers and many more attractions. And to round off a post election weekend, on Sunday 10th there is the Music Fest session in the walled garden at Valentines Mansion with another diverse mix of live music combining Indian classical, country blues, pop, ballads, soul, folk and bluegrass.

Saturday, April 25, 2015

Nappy Days, Mushroom Management & Cooking the Books

Tomorrow (Sunday 26th April) is the last day of Real Nappy Week 2015, and we’ve missed it. Never mind, it doesn’t stop today. In fact it goes on every day. Did you know that Redbridge council sends 58,800 disposal nappies to landfill every day? That’s every day, 365 days a year. That’s 21,462,000 a year, all going to landfill and costing the council, or you and me the council tax payer, huge sums in landfill charges. These things don’t come free you know. But the thing I want to know is who counted them?

We’ve missed the week's events organised by Redbridge council to promote real nappies, but they do still have a trail [sic!] offer pack for parents, or indeed grand parents, at £5 for those with children under 18 months old. Even if you don’t give a stuff about the environmental damage caused by disposable nappies, real nappies are estimated to save you up to £500 on a first baby and if used for another child even more. In these austere times that could make a solid down payment on tuition fees later on. Go have a look at the Redbridge-i page where the facts are explained and the myths busted.

Meanwhile, Mark Hall over at Business Waste laments how British business is wasting a small fortune every year on protective packaging and er, stuffing the environment in the process. He says:
In most cases, plastic protective packaging for electronic goods is for cosmetic purposes only, and only exists to maintain brand image when the outer box is open. It’s a brave but forward-looking brand that abandons white plastic inserts and replaces them with biodegradable card or organic packaging, but it’s a step that businesses should be prepared to take.
Alternatives that businesses should consider to replace plastic inter packaging include:
  • Recycled card
  • Biodegradable foam ‘peanuts’
  • Shaped biodegradable foam
  • Organic fibre inserts
The last of these is now a cheaply-available reality. It’s a type of fibre derived from the mushroom root system that can be turned into durable – yet 100% compostable – custom shapes ideal for any component or product. According to its developers, the environmental impact of this packaging is precisely zero. 
“Boxes you can grow are the future,”
Also on Business Waste Mark Hall looks at how Food packaging waste is killing the planet, and it’s all down to lazy meals. In a survey on how often householders cooked an evening meal from scratch using fresh ingredients they were shocked by their own findings:
  • Never 34%
  • Once a week 43%
  • More than once a week 21%
  • Every day 2%
Mark Hall explains:
Unfortunately, many supermarket-bought ready meals contain excess quantities of sugar and salt, and could be damaging to health in the long-run. It’s worse if the meal is of the instant variety. While the tens of thousands of tons of extra food packing are a serious issue, the health of the nation is just as bad, with a reliance on low-quality food causing obesity, diabetes and other conditions that will cost Britain dearly in coming years. 
“Dumping the ready meal really will save lives, and help save the planet,” says Hall.
And in a shocking discovery Barkingside CSI have uncovered damning evidence linking the expanding waistline of the Redbridge Cabinet Member for Health and Wellbeing to a stash of empty Pizza boxes found at an office basement in Beehive Lane.

The case has now been referred to Barkingside's renowned healthy shopping, eating and exercise guru and the subject will undergo an extensive rehabilitation course with appropriate therapy and dietary training as well as meditation and afternoon naps.

Friday, April 24, 2015

Shout Out for Youth -
First Youth Leader Debate on All4

Frustrated by the lack of young voices in British politics and a concern for voter disengagement, Shout Out UK, a youth news network, has teamed up with Channel 4 to launch a debate with young people at its heart. The Youth Leaders’ Debate will, for the first time ever, gather all the youth wings’ leaders of the seven major British parties’ in one place to debate politics and youth issues.

In an online exclusive, on seven youth party leaders will go up against each other as they tackle the key issues for young voters. Channel 4 News reporter Fatima Manji will chair the debate with representatives from the Conservatives, Greens, Labour, Liberal Democrats, Plaid Cymru, SNP and UKIP.

for bios click here and scroll
The leaders will field questions on issues that matter to young people from a studio audience, made up entirely from voters aged 18-25, some of whom will be visiting the ballot box for the first time.

The Youth Leader Debate will stream on the new digital service All 4 on Monday 28 April at 8pm.

Matteo Bergamini, Founder of Shout Out UK, said “I am 22 and for my generation this is an important event, for the first time in Britain, we are actively able to hear the political debate from a young person’s perspective. We have the power to speak our mind. It is our right, as well as our duty to demand a better future.”

Tom Porter, Channel 4’s News & Current Affairs Commissioning Editor said: “We are very excited to be hosting this ground-breaking debate on All 4. Young people often feel that their interests are ignored by political parties. We hope that by bringing the youth leaders together we can engage as many young people as possible on the issues that matter to them in this election and encourage them to vote.”

Currently Shout Out UK is recruiting an audience for the debate via this link.


There are 35 constituencies in England and Wales where at least 20 per cent of the voting population are between 18 and 24 years old; 17 of these were marginal seats in the 2010 election. Young people could have a dramatic impact on the upcoming general election, yet in 2010 only 44 per cent of this age group voted. There is also reason for optimism however, as youth participation in politics is on the rise, with many young people fighting the stereotype of political apathy.

With the two-party system being challenged by emerging political parties across the political spectrum, from the Green Party to UKIP, the possibility of real change is bringing young people back into politics. Young Greens’ membership doubled in size in 2014 alone. Even UKIP, who have tended to attract older voters, now have a youth wing which has grown 70 per cent in under a year.

For too long the disillusionment and lack of interest of many young people in politics has led to their interests being ignored by politicians. Looking at the voting figures it is easy to see why issues affecting young people, such as youth unemployment and housing are neglected by politicians and the group repeatedly let down over promises on university tuition fees. Older generations are simply far more likely to vote. This vicious circle has fostered increasing disillusion with the political process. To break this cycle and ensure the interests of young people are addressed by politicians we must re-engage this age group in the political system. The Institute for Public Policy Research recently recommended that young people should be forced to vote, yet this fails to tackle the root cause of the problem.

Young people could be key in swinging the vote in the May General Election. Through education and events such as Shout Out UK’s Youth Leaders' Debate we can engage this age group in politics and ensure the powerful voice of today’s youth is heard.

For more info contact:
Matteo Bergamini
+44 (0) 20 3239 9226

Shout Out UK is a non partisan independent youth news network that aims to show young people that politics has a direct impact on their lives. It has over 400 contributors and receives over 50,000 visits a month.

Thursday, April 23, 2015

Traffic & Parking Update

From our March 2015 hard copy Newsletter. Meant to post this up on the blog at the time but forgot – apologies.

Traffic issues in the West

Transport for London has refused to consider a new roundabout at the junction of Woodford Avenue and Clayhall Avenue, and Redbridge Council has decided not to enforce a U-Turn ban prior to the width restriction in Clayhall Avenue. So we have asked Highways to look into whether there is any evidence that the signalisation of Gants Hill roundabout (the funding for which was taken from Charlie Brown’s roundabout) has improved traffic flow there and if so to use this as leverage to press for the signalisation of Charlie Brown’s roundabout.

Irrespective of the U-Turn issue in Clayhall Avenue the daily rush hour tail-back would still be there and perhaps relieving congestion further on would also benefit this location. We have established that the proposal for a new cross roads traffic light system on Southend Road at the Roding Lane North and South junction would simply transfer the queue from Clayhall Avenue to Roding Lane North, a much narrower road that would not be able to cope.

We have been advised that responsibility for enforcement of the still illegal U-Turns in Clayhall Avenue (at the junction with Claybury Broadway) is to be transferred to Transport for London.

Bus Route & Parking on Forest Road

As forecast in our previous issue Transport for London are now consulting on their proposals to re-route the 462 bus from its current route along Fencepiece Road to Limes Farm and then on to The Lowe. The proposed route will run along Forest Road, turn into Elmbridge Road to The Lowe and then on to terminate at Limes Farm. If you have not had a hard copy through your letterbox you can make your views known directly via:

Much of the feedback we have received suggests that while this proposal is very welcome (it is somewhat overdue) it does not go far enough and that the new route should also serve Forest Cemetery, the Redbridge Cycling Centre and the Industrial Estate.

We are advised that irrespective of the above the parking on both sides of Forest Road between Fullwell Cross roundabout and the tube station has now become a safety issue and that measures designed to address the problem are being considered.

A verbal update from the Chief Highways officer at a Local Forum "market place" on 25th March is that double yellow lines will be provided on one side of Forest Road or the other.

You can sign up to receive our newsletters (3 per year) via email at this link or the more frequent (approx. fortnightly) blog notification updates.

And work on the new entrance to the Craven Gardens Car Park should be finished by the end of the week, says the man from Kensons …