Nestled in amongst St. Magarets House in Bethnal Green, the Grand Union Orchestra stands strong in its ambition to reach the widest of audiences through its music. Likewise it’s so rich in history, it could fill pages in a book! We were very fortunate to speak to Tony Haynes as he is literally busy busy busy, the amount of stuff GUO is pumping out is truly amazing! Read on to find out all about the GUO and please do attend their shows and spread the word!
The Grand Union Orchestra is a national organisation with a keen interest in the music of different cultural origins. As a musician who’s lived in and engaged with musicians in east London, I’ve found myself taking inspiration from the local community in various ways. GUO consists of professional musicians from the diverse cultures celebrated in east London, and we engage with them in our World Choir and our youth orchestra, which works in similar ways with young people, all of whom are east London musicians in their own right.
Young musicians are tutored by older professional musicians from all over the world, particularly from black and minority backgrounds. Our shows at the Hackney Empire, St John’s and Shoreditch Town Hall thus represent the spirit of young people and local communities, tracing the history of trade, the silk road, slave trade and migration. I’ve always been interested in politics, equality, musical activism; not to propagandise but to create great music that represents London today.
Everything I’ve done is constantly evolutionary and one thing leads to another, it’s a sort of dialectical process involving historical ideas and contemporary ones; the Battle of Cable Street is an example, pregnant with modern resonances – the rise of fascism, anti-jewish sentiments and anti-muslim intolerance – whilst making sure that’s not forgotten and dramatizing it all in a way that makes it contemporary.
Your passion for the area
I love Bethnal Green, it’s a great place to work from, it’s so diverse. We’re based in St Margaret’s House, and we’ve developed good relationships with musicians and artists based here, such as from the Bengali and Somali community and the likes of Oxford House and St Johns Church, some great examples of organisations you can collaborate with, we do all we can to encourage people to come. At the same time with things like gentrification, the property prices and associated costs rising I don’t want Bethnal Green to lose its character. When I lived in Clerkenwell, where Grand Union wsa originally based, I saw this pattern move east through Shoreditch, so I want to encourage new residents in Bethnal Green to meet up with their neighbours and learn, interact.
Friday April 5th, St John’s Church, 7.00 – 9.00 pm (bar open 6.45): Sounding Bethnal Green, combining performance, interview, discussion, workshop and participation. The last in the series, this evening looking at East European music flourishing locally, with charismatic Bulgarian percussionist Lilia Iontcheva and the GUO ‘house band’. Pay what you can! Flyer here
Sunday April 7th, Rich Mix, 3.45 – 5.15 pm: Bengal to Bethnal Green. The last in the current series of immensely popular free events, directed by tabla maestro Yousuf Ali Khan, bringing together local Bengali artists with musicians from the Grand Union Orchestra, featuring singer Suzana Ansari. Flyer here
Sunday April 7th, Sunday May 12th, Rich Mix, 10.00 – 1.30: Grand Union Youth Orchestra masterclass. Open to all young musicians aged 12-26 who wish to learn about world music first hand from experts, and/or play non-Western instruments. Free – more information here.
Besides performances by the professional GUO musicians and GUYO, we also run a world choir and a community street band in East London, and produce large-scale shows at the Hackney Empire and Shoreditch Town Hall in which all these groups and local people can take part.
The best way of keeping in touch with Grand Union’s work and opportunities for participation is to check our website www.grandunion.org.uk regularly, join our mailing list and sign up to our newsletter.
GUYO masterclasses continue throughout the year (generally the first Sunday in each month). Other events planned for the spring and summer include further projects ar St John’s and other local venues, and performances by GUO and GUYO at local festivals. Bengal to Bethnal Green will return in the autumn.
Meanwhile, we are beginning a new collaboration with Trinity Buoy Wharf, Rising Tides. This will explore and dramatise the effect of climate change around the world – providing a wealth of opportunities for the participation of East London communities.
Sourdough is all the rave these days, which is why we’re chuffed to be home to Sodo Pizza; boasting excellence in sustainable food practices. We caught up with Dan to find out more about Sodo Pizza and in the process became very very hungry! Be sure to check them out!
As a business we began as a pop up in a bakery. We are made up of a group of friends, all of whom share the same goal with regards to building a sustainable, environmentally conscious business which we enjoy and are proud to work in.
We make pizza using a full sourdough, long ferment method to rise the dough. We use local producers and farmers for our toppings with a focus on seasonal and locally grown produce. We look for opportunities to support sustainable food practices wherever we can which includes using UK grown and stone milled heritage flour in our dough. All of our wines fall into the natural/minimal intervention category. Our mozzarella is made in London using UK milk. All of our disposables are compostable. The aim of the business is to ensure that everyone comes to work and has as much fun as possible.
Your passion for the area
Bethnal Green is vibrant, diverse and exciting to be in. Much like the rest of east London there are many people doing interesting things and experimenting with ideas, concepts and ambitions.
We offer a £1 discount for either re using or bringing your own take away pizza box. Saving the world one pizza at a time. Just let us know when you order so we don’t put it in a new box.
The future will be milling our own flour from heritage grains grown for us by our flour partner. Reduce our waste output to as close to zero as possible and get as close as we can to 100% uk produce on our menu.
Sodo Pizza is located on 266 Poyster Street, E2 9RF. You can also find them on Instagram @sodopizzalondon
Bethnal Green is home to some amazing businesses, and EJ Ryder has definitely got to be up there with the best! A construction service built on a need to be ethical, environmentally-friendly and forward-thinking. We caught up with Edwin Ryder, Founder and Creative Director at EJ Ryder to find out exactly how it all came together, and why he enjoys working out of Bethnal Green so much!
I grew up in Somerset and studied construction management at Bristol University – I never really envisioned moving to London. My background is as a builder working predominantly in joinery on cottages, houses, fitting slate roof houses, flooring and so on. However, building didn’t offer me the sort of creative challenges I was looking for in my professional life.
It was in 2012 that a friend who was a set designer in Dalston Lane asked me to design and fit a plywood kitchen. I packed up and brought over all my tools, stayed in London for 4 months. Once we finished, we took photographs and put them on Facebook – the response was incredible. We had people asking who the designer was, who made this?! I knew then that I was onto something special.
I taught myself CAD in couple of months, as it was essential for communicating information to tradesman. CAD allowed me to become more involved in woodwork, learning about technologies such as laser cutting and CNC (computer numerical control) machining. In 2014, we were working out of an office in Hackney Wick office, but the dream was to find a place to set up a workshop with space for a design studio.
When we first came to Bethnal Green the space was derelict and run-down. At one point we redecorated, only to find out someone had boarded up a whole wall of windows! We had a studio upstairs and the workshop downstairs. There was even someone living at the workshop. We gradually renovated the space to create a studio and workshop on the same floor, and in August 2018 we hosted a party that was attended by over 200 people. Sodo pizza supplied the food, Redchurch Brewery supplied 2 kegs of beer and East London Liquor Company provided the gin. We were able to raise awareness about EJ Ryder and celebrate the space we had created.
We collaborate with clients, designers, architects and contractors to find innovative solutions to their furniture, interior and architectural construction projects. We work closely together to find creative answers to any questions or problems posed. We use all local businesses and metal workers, our CNC company is based in leyton, for example. We hope to expand our existing workshop and studio into the next building across from us, breaking through the walls to create a huge workspace! We ultimately want to be open to the public; call us, email – we want people to come in and look around, we don’t want to be this secret cave in Bethnal Green.
Initially, we didn’t know much about Bethnal Green and we were very much on the lookout for the right space. Once we were here, we discovered something new about the area each week – there’s even a wrestling club around the corner from us. We remember hearing massive slams and grunting noises one day and casually wondered out to find a man in full spandex getting ready! We even found a mirror silvering company, providing backing for mirrors, and Sodo Pizza is just behind our workshop – we built their shop signage. We worked with Get Turner construction, doing £70,000 worth of business with them. Bethnal Green is such a vibrant place – we discover new businesses all the time and we’re always eager to get to know more people. It’s really the best place to be, super friendly and so much going on.
We created a brand in Bethnal Green and expanded purely on word of mouth. Going forward we want to refurbish our studio, shop and workshop and do so responsibly. I want to minimise waste, reuse reclaimed material and ensure the building is as energy efficient as possible. I also want to utilise a local workforce where possible. I want to allow anyone to come in and explore our spaces and be given opportunities to receive environmentally friendly products and services. Since we have this great space, our offering to Bethnal Green is we leave these spaces as flexible as possible; we’re in a prominent location as a base for the Bethnal Green community. We would be happy to host a wide range of talks and events for free, and we are eventually hoping to provide workshops for local school children to discover the joys of woodworking!
We want to be the best furniture designers and makers. We intend to push the use of technological innovation further, to improve ways of working and encourage more extensive collaboration. I want EJ Ryder to be the go-to for precision engineered house building with a social, moral and ethical philosophical approach to this industry. We want to do whatever we can to encourage change for the better.
EJ Ryder is located on 351a Cambridge Heath Road, give them a follow on their Instagram @ej_ryder
Meet Izaak Fox, gym enthusiast and personal trainer based out of Energie Fitness Bethnal Green. We recently caught up with Izaak as part of our growing series of ‘Bethnal Greeners’ conversations exploring the who’s who of Bethnal Green.
Hey, so I’m born and bred in North London, I was never really a sporty child like most boys. I preferred superheroes, drawing and drama. My friends kind of forced me into football but I only really got into it when I was about around 11 and am now a massive Arsenal fan as a result. I was always skinny growing up, at 13 I went to a youth gym and slowly fell in love with working out. Quite quickly my arms got a little bigger, seeing such results got me immediately hooked. In the coming months I found myself doing all I could to get bigger; learning off of my peers about exercise, and doing my own education regarding fitness at home during my spare time. After a year, my gym offered to take me on as a volunteer gym instructor. I had such a great experience here, helping out with maintenance, running classes, and got a free gym membership in return. The instructors themselves taught me more and more each day, and I found myself bringing it all together. I later stopped volunteering at the gym to focus on my exams for school, but always knew it was something I really wanted to do and get back into.
In order to get me started as a health and fitness trainer I attended a six week full time personal training course and then went on to mobile personal training around London. That was during my first year, it was in my second year that I found myself working in Energie Fitness Bethnal Green as a personal trainer. I currently specialise in a lot of areas of personal training, such as fat loss, weight gain, strength training, kettlebells, and HIIT (High Intensity Interval Training). I like to be an all-rounded PT to be able help every type of client for all their fitness needs and specific goals.
Your passion for the area
What I really like about Bethnal Green is the diversity of people that I get to meet and often work with. The history of the area is a real draw for many people and it’s not hard to imagine why. When I step out of the gym even, there’s just so much on offer in terms of green space, shops, cafés and places to eat and drink.
I offer all members a free complementary PT session to kick start their fitness journey, just get in touch. My aim is to make exercise fun and something that doesn’t feel like a chore through having a friendly personal trainer who keeps you motivated, and laughing.
I intend to grow as a personal training professional, learning the best ways to help my clients reach their fitness goals. I hope to one day become a general manager for a gym and even create a gym of my own.
If you’re interested in getting in touch with Izaak you can contact him on his mobile: +447543807144 and work email firstname.lastname@example.org
At Love Bethnal Green we’re always delighted to bring you a unique insight into all the fascinating businesses and organisations operating from within Bethnal Green. So as part of our growing series of ‘Bethnal Greeners’ conversations we had the real pleasure of speaking to Belinda Leung; the face behind Woolidando. Woolidando is actually a tripartite delight nestled in the heart of Bethnal Green Road! Acting as a café, plant shop and gallery space all-in-one. An interesting setup to say the least, read on to find out more!
Woolidando is a café, plant shop and gallery space all wrapped into one! The idea is something I had been planning for a number of years and after the perfect space came onto the market, the dream finally became a reality in 2018. I am a concept artist and illustrator in the film and gaming industry having worked on major films and for companies like Nintendo and SEGA. I wanted to have a gallery space in the cafe as a way to showcase the art of my peers in the entertainment industries, who are all accomplished artists in their own right, and provide them with a platform to exhibit their personal work. We once held a silent charity art auction which raised £1500 over a weekend. The money went to the World Land Trust in an effort to protect a strip of rainforest in Belize. Our next charity art auction will be in support of Cancer Research, showcasing life drawings from artists in the entertainment industries and a number of local artists.
Our focus is on community and sustainability, we want everyone to feel welcome in our shop and we do our best to ensure that everything is ethically sourced and traceable. Our goal is to change the high street and provide a green space in Bethnal Green whilst raising awareness of environmental issues in the UK and across the globe. We are constantly making improvements to become as low-waste and zero-plastic as possible.
We are a café and a plant shop! Our coffee comes from Ozone Coffee Roasters in Old Street and we have an extensive range of fine loose leaf teas- some of which possess fantastic medicinal qualities. We have a daily changing menu of vegan friendly soups from across the globe, including congee and harira. We also serve a delectable range of sourdough toasties that combine international flavours – the ‘K-pop’ is a must-try! Our organic pastries are delivered fresh everyday and our sourdough bread is from a local bakery just down the road. We sell succulents, cacti and tropical foliage plants, and we also source rare indoor plants for the serious plant collectors. To compliment the plants, we also stock a wide range of plant pots and hand-crafted ceramics made in East London alongside a cards, gifts and accessories for nature lovers.
Your passion for the area
There is nowhere in London that has as much energy as Bethnal Green! We have so much love for the diverse community here and we meet different people from all walks of life every day. Many of our customers are local artists, screenwriters and actors that make up part of Bethnal Greens incredibly creative community, and many of our other customers make the trip down for lunch from the financial district in Liverpool Street. Bethnal Green is also home to many young families too and it’s great to see young people growing up in the area and enjoying all the plants in our shop. The weekend also brings Brick Lane Market and Columbia Road Flower market, which brings great footfall to the area. As an owner, I am particularly appreciative of our neighbouring businesses. They have been incredibly welcoming and we all make an effort to look out for each other.
We don’t want to expand too quickly and hope to make more of an impact locally before branching out. We plan to propose a Sunday food and farmers market on Barnet Grove to bring better food to the area and encourage people to eat more healthily and sustainably. And as a long term mission, we’d like to help with the issue of youth disengagement and drug problems in this part of the borough, which unfortunately feels commonplace.
Got your attention! Woolidando is located on 253 Bethnal Green Road, so what are you waiting for?! Go and show them some love.
With a direct focus on the east end, EastHaus does estate agency with a twist. Jenna Buck and Patrick Brady had both been in the property industry for a considerable amount of time before creating EastHaus. This Bethnal Greeners feature explores their journey and passion for the east end, so read on!
We’ve both lived in East London on and off for most of our lives. In fact, Patrick spent much of his youth growing up around Bethnal Green. We got together about 10 years ago, whilst working for a local East End property developer and since then continued to work in the property industry for both large and small East and Central London property consultancies and developers.
It was actually Patrick’s mum who inspired us to go into business together. In 2016, she decided to sell her house in Homerton and was really struggling to find an estate agent she felt comfortable with. We stepped in to help and were genuinely quite shocked at the level of service being offered from some of the agents in the area.
Then we had an idea…… if we could combine the quality of service offered in the West End with our knowledge of living in East End, then we would be able to offer something that was clearly in short supply in the East London property market. And so EastHaus was born.
We are a residential sales and lettings agency specialising solely in East London property.
It is not that we necessarily do things differently, we simply do them properly. We have a genuine passion for East London property and for ensuring we provide the best possible service to all parties involved. We are really trying to bring the personal attention and consideration which defined our experiences in the West London property market and apply it to every East London client.
We are based in the Pill Box, a former pharmaceutical factory in Bethnal Green – now a workspace of studios and offices home to a really diverse mix of independent businesses from shoe makers to forensic scientists and of course, an Estate Agent!
Clients can still come and see us and the added benefit is that not having an expensive high street shop fronted office means we can be more competitive on the fees we offer.
We also have really flexible working hours to facilitate the busy lives of East Londoners. We are happy to carry out viewings at any time of day and any day of the week so long as it suits all parties involved. We tend to find that when people don’t have to squeeze in a house viewing because of time constraints, the viewing experience is enhanced, both for us and them! And it is precisely because we are independent that we are able to be this flexible. Not just with our time, but with our approach to every client and what might suit them best.
Having sold a number of new developments over the years, and having worked with several boutique developers in that time, we recognise the importance interior design plays in marketing and selling properties in East London. That’s why we also recommend a local interior architect to assist clients in maximising the appeal of their property, whether to help in something as simple as picking the right curtains or something as complex as a full refurbishment project.
Your passion for the area, likes or dislikes
East London is a fantastically diverse part of the capital. It is fiercely independent, wonderfully creative and offers an eclectic mix of people, businesses, sights and sounds. We have a genuine passion and love for this part of London and are committed to championing other local independent businesses helping to promote the face of the East End.
Patrick: My absolute favourite area is Homerton. I grew up around there so it’s been amazing to have watch its transformation. It’s still much rawer than some of the other Hackney districts but there are some great bars, coffee shops and independent retailers to explore. A lot of people see Homerton as being on the edge of Hackney and slightly detached as it borders Hackney Marshes, but I would argue the opposite is true. From Homerton High Street you can walk to Central Hackney and the fashion hub of Hackney Walk, as well as Hackney Marshes, Hackney Wick and even Westfield in Stratford. Not to mention that you can get from Homerton Station to Oxford Circus in just over 20 mins.
Jenna: If I’m honest, I tend to navigate my favourite areas by coffee shops! The Common E2 on Old Bethnal Green Road is an East London treasure, their food is so good and I would argue they have the best coffee in East London – I absolutely love it in there and I love the area around it. Just a few minutes’ walk away you come across the eclectic shops of Columbia Road (Nelly Duff and Milagros are particular favourites) as well the picturesque Victorian terraces and brightly painted front doors of the Jesus Hospital Estate Conservation Area.
We are very happy to offer readers of this article a 20% discount off our standard sales and lettings fees should they decided to sell or rent through us. (Just quote ‘LOVEBETHNALGREEN’ when you get in touch). We would also love people to shout about our business so if you know of someone looking to sell or rent out their home anywhere in East London put them in touch with us and if they decide to use our services, we’ll drop you over one of our fab hampers packed full of East End goodies from all our favourite independent retailers.
We have been up and running for almost two and half years now and are really pleased with the impact we have made so far in terms of people starting to recognise our name and also the amazing feedback we have had from our clients so far (have a look at our reviews on Google, All Agents and Trustpilot to see what people think of us). Our goal is to become the number one agent of choice for residents of Hackney, Tower Hamlets and the surrounding areas – but possibly more importantly for us, is to be recognised and remembered for the service we provide. We genuinely care about what we do and hopefully, in time, we can help to change the face of estate agency to a much friendlier and trusted one.
You can find out more about EastHaus on their website https://www.easthaus.co.uk/
Red Sun CrossFit, a truly welcomed new addition on the Bethnal Green health and fitness front! I recently spoke with Wassim Tawil, the studio manager at Red Sun CrossFit to find out more about what this new venture means to him, what’s on offer and on their exciting partnership with the NHS. As always, keep reading and following our Love Bethnal Green ‘Bethnal Greeners’ series to gain a unique insight into some fantastic businesses and organisations!
I’m the manager here at Red Sun CrossFit which recently opened in March 2018. The owners are based in Switzerland, which is where I was first introduced to this amazingly effective and accessible form of training and exercise. The head coach of Red Sun CrossFit whom I trained under has also come across from Switzerland to head up our teaching thus offering his expertise on a wide range of programmes catered to all skill levels. Our coaching staff have specialist degrees in adaptive training, and have extensive experience training athletes with physical, intellectual, and developmental impairment.
We want to be an accessible, open space for people of all levels, ages and backgrounds not just the experienced athlete. We are true believers of the benefits of CrossFit having experienced the positive changes it has brought us in our own lives. We hope to instil positive habits, discipline and a drive to achieve one’s goals! Our mission is to pass down the knoweldge and benefits that we’ve acquired from CrossFit onto others and help improve their mental, emotional, and physical wellbeing. We also hope to become embedded into the fabric of our community and thus were delighted when we were recently approached by the NHS East London Foundation Trust to pilot a custom programme for people with lifelong learning disabilities. Most of these people have been leading a very sedentary and unhealthy lifestyle, putting them at high risk of chronic and heart diseases. Alongside the help of a certified dietitian issuing bespoke nutrition plan to the clients, we achieved a great success amongst our first cohort, and are soon to be starting with a new cohort of people.
Your passion for the area
Familiar with the area, Tower Hamlets has a big demographic of people with health problems such as obesity, diabetes etc. In London it’s difficult finding a space big enough to run group classes so we were quite fortunate to get something spacious and convenient. Bethnal Green still feels real, the people the high street; close by to Shoreditch which has its edge.
We’re currently doing 50% off the first month’s membership as a new year’s promotion. We always provide the first class as a free taster, and students and members of the armed forces receive 10% off monthly memberships. We just introduced a new Burner class this year which has the same effectiveness as a CrossFit workout but is less technical and more accessible, making it ideal for beginners.
We want to be a truly comprehensive health provider, adding more elements to the services we already provide. We want to branch into the recovery, psychology and nutritional pillars that tend to a person’s overall wellbeing. In light of our recent partnership with the NHS, we are working to co-author a research paper demonstrating the benefits CrossFit has on a person, and push towards making exercise a prescriptive tool and an alternative to just issuing medication. We hope to provide the full service, encouraging sustainable wellbeing through emotional, physical and nutritional advice and guidance.
Red Sun CrossFit is based in the arches at the following address – 195 Bancroft Road, London, E1 4ET
I recently met the lovely Simone of @siansahs_florist during my adventures exploring and profiling businesses and organisations based in and around Bethnal Green. Simone has a really likeable personality and strives to perfect her offer to all her customers. I myself have witnessed her craftsmanship curating pieces for clients and the attention to detail she gives this task. To learn more about her and Siansah’s Florist please do continue reading!
“Siansah’s florist is family-run business with a Colombian background, established since 1982 in the town of Bucaramanga, Columbia. We take pride in providing a floral service with a wide variety of approaches whether that is traditional or state of the art. Here at Siansah’s we hope to provide a service that is not only professional but also extremely personal. This has remained our core approach with all our customers, and has given us a unique edge enabling us to blossom over the years. Our flowers and plants are brought to you with nothing but love, freshness and exceptional craftsmanship. We’re more than happy to bring to life floral designs for any occasion such as weddings, parties and so forth. Please do come to visit us at our Bethnal Green florists and you will be welcomed by blooming flowers shining with elegance in each corner of our business premises and as always a smile!”
We cater for all types of events – celebrations, festive events and seasons. We are proud to be one of the best florists within London, with the added benefit of being located in the heart of the capital. Another awesome benefit of being based in this diverse city and rich Bethnal Green locality means we never find ourselves falling short of finding inspiration for our designs and floral arrangements.
Your passion for the area
In Bethnal Green, I find a mixture of ethnicity; it’s a good thing for humanity we can learn to get on with each other. The business sector is starting to extend with lots of new innovative shops such as the Columbia coffee shops nearby, Japanese restaurants all being a stone’s throw away from Siansah’s. I find it very welcoming that a lot of these shops are opening now. Business is improving on the high street as a result and you can now really find everything you’d need in Bethnal Green from the big Tesco supermarket to the smaller DIY and groceries stores.
Until the end of January, I will be offering return customers 10% off their future purchases from Siansah’s Florist.
In the future I would really love to have more shops in time, possibly a chain across London with staff that complement us as a business.
You can tend to all your floral needs at Siansah’s Florist which is conveniently located at 216 Bethnal Green Road opposite the Post Office – make sure to check her out!
Bethnal Green can be a really great place to stay fit and healthy, whether that’s out and about in the local parks or by taking one of many classes in the gyms dotted around the area. We recently met with Laura who runs a weekly pilates session in the Cranbrook Community Centre, just off Roman Road every Saturday morning where you and a friend can join for just £5 each!
I come from a background of hating exercise! I had a real aversion to it, accompanied by some painful childhood memories of always being picked last for the netball team. I discovered more enjoyable fitness in my late 20s, having stopped smoking and needing an activity to help me manage both my weight and mindset, having put the cigarettes down. I’m quite the exercise cliché in that I haven’t looked back. I retrained as a fitness professional and set up my own fitness business in 2001. I’ve always felt in a great position to empathise and guide those who don’t warm to the idea of exercise initially.
I aim to deliver fitness content that’s both effective and palatable. I try to keep routines short and low maintenance when it comes to kit and cost. When working with individuals, I ensure I listen to their limitations before issuing fitness and diet prescriptions. And when it comes to classes, my aim is to offer a dynamic environment and a thorough workout, but a session that feels to the individual like the time’s flown!
My Pilates Sculpt class is for anyone who’s ever wished they didn’t have to choose between a workout and Pilates. And for anyone who wants to strengthen their core, or top up their physio exercises, at a relatively low cost.
Your passion for the area
I’ve lived in Tower Hamlets since 1997 and worked in the Borough since 2000. It feels like it’s continually changing, evolving, whether that’s the addition of a new development on the Isle of Dogs or another independent coffee shop in Bethnal Green. I love the fitness offerings in the area too: it really does feel like there’s something for everyone, from affordable fitness classes and budget gym memberships to Europe’s largest luxury health club (Third Space)!
And I’ve been so lucky to work with Bethnal Green’s beautiful Cranbrook Community Centre and Food Garden on my classes – Janet, Eileen and Lizzie have been very supportive in helping me build this fantastic, friendly little class.
I try to keep my classes competitively priced, so they’re available to all. I’m currently offering my Pilates-Pal promotion – if you bring a friend, you both attend for half price (£5). I also offer concessions, and will always aim to be flexible on cost for anyone wishing to attend on a limited budget.
My aim is to continue to build an effective, supportive and intimate exercise environment: one that encourages class participants to tick all their fitness boxes (strength, flexibility, a bit of heart health) as well as enabling them to meet other, friendly local residents on a Saturday morning!
Laura runs her Pilates Sculpt classes in the Cranbrook Community Centre on Saturday mornings from 9.30-10.30 AM. Visit Laura’s website for more details.
In the first of our Bethnal Greeners series of conversations for the new year! We are joined by local Architect and co-founder of Arboreal Architecture Tom Raymont. We recently spoke with Tom to learn more about his architectural and design practice; particularly their work constructing the Stairway to Heaven, in Bethnal Green, built on the site of the Bethnal Green tube station disaster of the Second World War.
Arboreal Architecture is a vibrant young architecture and design practice founded in 2010 by local residents Tom Raymont and Harry Paticas. They met each other during their studies at the Architectural Association in central London and after working separately for a few years – Harry in London, Tom in Los Angeles and New York – decided to create their own studio together.
When we started working together we wanted a good name for our practice, something a bit more fun than just our surnames so we went for a walk in Victoria Park to brainstorm ideas. There, surrounded by all those incredible trees – the weeping beech is our favourite – we were inspired to use the name “arboreal”. What better inspiration could you have for a building than trees? They have such a wealth of forms, colours, textures, inventive structural systems, solar collection and shade, even plumbing! They seem to marry technical performance and beauty in a way that we humans should aspire to in what we build.
We’re an ecological architecture practice so our aim is to create buildings that help us live more sustainably. This means looking to the future and finding ways to build that are very different from our current practices that rely so much on fossil fuel energy and create huge amounts of waste and pollution. The construction industry creates 60% of the UK’s waste whereas households create 14% (according to 2014 DEFRA statistics) so there really is a lot to play for. Choosing materials carefully and finding ways to reclaim and reuse them becomes a key part of our design process.
Energy is obviously also a huge factor. We’re certified Passivhaus designers which means we use particular methods to measure how much energy our designs will use when built. It helps us to deliver very high performance buildings such as our retrofit in Clapham that won Residential Building of the Year in the CIBSE Building Performance Awards 2016. There’s a lot of “greenwash” out there, people telling you that their product or design will save the planet, so it’s really important to have standards like Passivhaus to make sure buildings really are as energy efficient as they claim.
Your passion for the area
We’re based in St. Margaret’s House on Old Ford Road and we have always felt that being an architect means actively engaging with your neighbourhood, its buildings and public spaces. Our first project was the Bethnal Green Memorial which all started when Harry heard the story about the disaster in the Second World War and sent a sketch to the East London Advertiser. They published his sketch and that put him in touch with some of the survivors and relatives of those who died in the crush on the steps on 3rd March, 1943. When these people heard Harry’s idea they were really touched and inspired to make it happen. Many years of fundraising and hard work later… here it is beside the tube station, overlooking the same steps where the accident happened. The project has been very well received in the local community and gone on to win quite a few awards: we’re the RIBA London Project Architect of the Year in fact.
As architects we offer a full range of design services, often to people in East London but also all over the UK and occasionally abroad. We design new buildings as well as renovating existing ones. We are particularly passionate about retrofitting existing buildings, transforming them to suit new uses whilst radically improving their energy performance. London is naturally full of old buildings that are often beautiful but also cold, draughty and terribly inefficient. They were built when shovelling coal into a fireplace in each room was considered normal! No wonder they are not as comfortable or efficient as we need them to be today. We have our work cut out to transform all our existing buildings to fit the green paradigm of today.
We’re a thriving and growing architecture practice so we are always excited by the latest projects on the drawings boards (aka computer screens). We would like to keep meeting new clients that share our ecological thinking so that we can continue to build exemplary homes, public building and spaces. It’s a fast changing world and we are keen to keep innovating so that we can all be living and working in the green buildings our planet so urgently needs. Get in touch you green Bethnal Greeners!
You can get in touch with Arboreal Architecture at their Bethnal Green studio in St. Margaret’s House, London E2 9PL or check out their Instagram @arboreal_architecture
Next up in our Bethnal Greeners series we have Sami Youseff; kickboxer, fishmonger and all round good guy! he’s just recently opened shop on 414 Bethnal Green Road selling all sorts of incredible fish, do check him out and have a good read of his interview below!
I’ve got a great deal of experience as both a fisherman and fishmonger. I’m originally from Rosetta in Egypt, just east of Alexandria where I owned a fishing vessel, so I’m experienced in this industry – ‘I’m like a fish you see, you take me out the sea and it’s a problem!’, with the scars to prove it – I lost a finger out in sea in a freak accident reeling in a net!
In London I used to run two restaurants in Shoreditch for around 12 years before I opened Fresh Fish with my business partner, who also owns a similar shop in Whitechapel. Initially, I helped him out over there when he had a child and now we’ve taken to opening up a venture in Bethnal Green.
Having been witness to the successful Whitechapel shop of my business partners for some time now I decided to open up Fresh Fish as a local Bethnal Green fishmonger, sourcing the best quality produce every day straight from Billingsgate market.
Your passion for the area
Bethnal green is a good area with nice people, there is definitely a community spirit here. I get a lot of different customers; Portuguese, Spanish, Italian and Bangladeshi to name a few. I used to live and study in Italy for around 6 years, so can speak both Italian and Spanish which helps. Bethnal Green is also a great location for me to work in, as I train professionally in K1 kickboxing, closing shop here most days and grabbing my bag and going straight to my gym which is based nearby in Shoreditch.
We specialise in seabass, salmon, lobster alongside a variety of different fish. I source my fish from Billingsgate market 3am every morning, delivering this to both the shops before we open up each morning. We ensure that our fish is the freshest and the pricing remains competitive, I believe is because of this that nearly 80% of our stock is sold by the end of the day.
I would like to spend more money and time on the look of the shop, make it a classier and appealing to my customers. We are still at the beginning stages of opening up so have big hopes for the coming weeks and months.
Next up in the Bethnal Greeners series is the Mayfield Hall Community Interest Company, set up to re-imagine a disused space in the heart of E2. We caught up with Chris Thorn to hear about their hopes for the space, and to hear how we can all get behind the project..
The Mayfield Hall Group Community Interest Company was setup by Bethnal Green residents Chris Thorn, Mo Wong and Punya Sehmi with a singular ambition: to promote and facilitate the reuse of Mayfield Hall for a community, cultural-based purpose. The group of friends had been passing by the decaying social hall at the corner of Cambridge Heath Road and Old Ford Road since it was boarded up in 2015 and wanted to see this iconic building return to use and become an active part of its civic setting.
We began by visiting the Tower Hamlets archive library to look into the history of the building. We managed to come across historic photographs of the social programs it was originally home to. This included the Bethnal Green music library, recital hall, public laundry and a number of historic articles about the civic and social principles on which the building was conceived. This was the start of our journey to campaign for the reuse of Mayfield Hall and reinstate its original socially driven purpose.
After a year of spending our weekends and spare time meeting, speaking with people, making contacts and digging around for information we decided to take the plunge and form the Mayfield Hall Group. We’ve created a Spacehive crowdfunding campaign to promote and gain support from the community to get the project off the ground.
Your passion for the area
We have lived in Bethnal Green for 17 years and have worked here for the past 7. This not only means that most of our social network is in east London but also those people and organisations we work with are based here too. We love Bethnal Green for its diversity, vibrancy and its history, along with its challenges and its struggles. It is a continual inspiration for us and we hope this project will add to this dynamic mix.
We want to create something for the local community that reflects the heritage and civic pride of Bethnal Green. It is a shame that such an iconic building has been left to decay for so many years. Our vision is to repair and re-open Mayfield Hall so it’s able to accommodate a community, with plenty of culture-driven use, and also create a space for people to learn, engage and celebrate.
With the backing of our Spacehive crowdfunding campaign, we will run workshops with the community and local organisations to understand what is the best future use for the Mayfield Hall. We plan to test the outcomes from the workshops by running a series of free events and get feedback from visitors. We also need to commission a condition survey and feasibility study of the hall so that we can understand what repairs, adaptions and works would be required before Mayfield Hall can be brought back into public use.