Friday, 25 December 2020

Tuesday, 22 December 2020


By Lee


By Jennie

When we first went into lockdown, there was a sense of novelty, and time due to not having to travel to and from work. 

I thought I would do the couch to 5k,  bake bread, garden and start patchwork quilting!  

My husband also asked me to sort out the numerous clothes in our bedroom which needed to be sorted into piles to put away, give away or cut up for quilting. ‘Of course, I said’. 

At the second lockdown, he offered me a £100 to sort them. 

I started. 

Like I started baking Sour Dough bread. It was lovely!  I made about 4-5 loaves.  

Like I started the couch to 5 k, I almost completed it.  (I’ve still got the last run on the last week to do!)

For the Star, I decided to do  patchwork. 

Despite having 3 weeks to do it, I left it to 2 days before it was due to start it. 

So my reflections on these strange times is that I don’t change even if the circumstances have changed. I still leave things until the last minute, needing the deadline to work towards. 

(Maybe in order to finish the pile of clothing, he needed to offer me a deadline to get the £100! However I know what to get him for Christmas, a tidy room!)

On a bright note, my daughter has asked me to do the couch to 5 k with her in 2021, so I may get that finished!

Monday, 21 December 2020


By Joy

Like many people, part of what’s getting me through this strange and difficult time is a range of indoor exercise options, and adventures in cooking.

The unusual thing that’s been keeping me going, though, is breastfeeding. Not doing it myself, but helping others. My children are in their late teens, so those years are long gone. But I volunteer on the National Breastfeeding Helpline (and work, sometimes, training other women to volunteer on the helpline, and supporting them in their volunteering).

Women call the helpline with a wide range of issues, and in a wide range of situations. Particularly in the early days of the lockdown, when women couldn’t get their usual support from the NHS, and when they couldn’t see their extended family. Lots of volunteers stepped up, and in March and April we took more calls than we had ever taken before. 

Why? Many volunteers were stuck in their houses with school-age children underfoot. Lots of us had unusual stresses about health and jobs. But, when you’re having a hard time, one thing that can really help, is helping someone else. It makes you feel powerful, and it makes you feel connected. Our training focusses on listening skills – we have to be able to listen effectively, to help women over the phone. We have to be careful to get all the relevant details, so we can give women appropriate information and support. Those listening skills include empathising with the people who call us – and that connection, during a dark and difficult time, was uplifting. When you’re having a bad day, helping someone else can really improve your mood. 

Sometimes, on the phone, it feels like a weird sort of sleepover. Just me and another woman (most of the callers are mums) talking in the dark. Ok, there’s more crying than I remember from sleepovers. But it’s a sort of intimacy, a contact. Each call is a leap in the dark – you don’t know what you’ll get. You don’t know if you’ll be able to help. But you know you’ll do your best.

Sunday, 20 December 2020


By Rhona

Can you spot the birds she’s been watching on Hackney Marshes and around and about during COVID?

A woodpecker? A kingfisher? And a pheasant she spotted in Asda car park. Glorious! 

Saturday, 19 December 2020


By Esta


By Marie

The installation some how felt a little,  slightly, rebelliously naughty. Any way l just wanted to make a brief statement about my star but l don't know how to do it but how about... 

A star of hope & a prayer of light for the approaching year ahead 2021. 

Tuesday, 15 December 2020


By Helen

2020 what a weird year, 
Covid 19 and living in fear.
Stock piling loo roll, pasta and tea.
Thank God for the NHS and it's free.
Wear face masks, wash hands and make space. Shop keepers and delivery drivers with good things to taste.
Reading a book then zoom quiz with time to fill. 
So many hours to plan my next meal.
Pumpkin picking and walks in the sun. Watching the Christmas lights have been fun.
So much to be grateful for, our home, family friend's and hope. 
There's various ways in which we can cope. ❤️
©️ Helen Eusebe


By Chock and Sebby

Monday, 14 December 2020


By Brett

Quinn, my daughter of 21 months, and I had a bit more time on our hands when Corona hit. Instead of whisking her away to exhibitions or playdates we spent a lot more time pushing our own creative boundaries in my studio. We started designing into everything we could find and pouring over artistic books from our shelves. Old clothes, scraps of paper, things destined for the landfill, all was our treasure to explore and rework. After a while I realized some of the clothes we were upcycling could be used to solve a serious problem that had been bothering me for ages. Before I had her I worked in the 2nd worst polluting industry in the world, Fashion. It sickened me that my creativity was feeding a machine that was eating up her future. I loved to create but I wanted to be part of solutions that she would be proud of and want to follow. Lockdown gave us the extra time to discover the magic of upcycling clothing and inspired me to start a book. I wanted to teach others simple tricks to make their wardrobe incredible. Why consume more or discard something that can keep being revived through your own expression. Even better I wanted to teach others how to bring their child into the making process and let them design their own wardrobe. What better way to combat fast fashion then to show the next generation the value of clothing and the power of their own creativity. The first chapter is on painting into our clothes so I drew from the Lascaux Caves, our species first recorded artistic beginnings. There is something unspeakably beautiful about the simple repeated shapes of our hands outlined in pigment blown through hollow bones. There is one theory that these caves were painted by pregnant women who might have been the only members of the tribe with enough time resting indoors to reach for something deeper than just survival. When I showed Quinn books of these works she reacted excitedly exclaiming, “Hand! Hand!” She loves to make handprints in any medium, a simple connection with the material and an identifier both universal and all her own. We tried replicating the Lascaux Caves with spray bottles of paint into fabrics and paper. The idea that these ancient mothers were reaching through time and still inspiring the youngest of minds today filled me with gratitude for the healing nature of art. It may have been a hard year with many setbacks but my daughter’s burgeoning mind and my ability to give back through sustainable teaching kept us feeling light and full of possibility. It’s incredible how loss of freedom can open up so much and how slowing and looking back for inspiration can bring the newest change.

If you are interested in learning to upcycle clothing or want to teach the small ones in your life to upcycle please find us at 

Sunday, 13 December 2020


 "Lap Swimming"


This year I have acutely felt among the lucky ones. Anne and I could work from home. We weren’t furloughed or made redundant. No one in the house caught the virus (that we know of).  None of our family back in the US caught it either – until recently, but in that case with a swift recovery.

Of course, there were losses on a lesser scale – no theatre, no museums, no live music. Cancelled visits and cancelled trips. No going to the pub after work.

But then again, we made the most of what we could do. A week in the Peak District. Meeting colleagues for a picnic in the park. Chatting with friends on Chatsworth Road.

And let’s be honest, London in lockdown was wonderful, in a way. Clean air, quiet streets, empty skies. Every few days I would cycle around the city, over London Bridge and then back across Blackfriars Bridge, stopping to marvel at the sight of Fleet Street or Old Street with not a soul in view. Cycling changed from being a way of commuting to being a way to catch an hour of freedom.

This autumn, as the days grew shorter and the news became ever grimmer, I discovered – or rediscovered – the pleasure of lap swimming. When I was younger, I swam for play or I swam to compete. This time around, swimming has become meditation. From the moment I enter the pool and drop under the water, thoughts fall away and I can only and simply be in the moment: Pull, kick, breathe. Pull, kick, breathe. Pull, kick, breathe.

Friday, 11 December 2020


By Kari

Over the last ten or so years, the amount of time that I spend listening to music has dropped significantly as podcasts have filled up most of my available listening time. But the way I mostly listen to podcasts at home is through one AirPod with my phone in my back pocket as I move around the house, and listening in such a way means that anyone else who is in my vicinity can’t tell that I’m listening to something. As far as they can tell, I’ve available. When schools closed in March and suddenly my children were home all of the time, my private podcast listening was constantly being interrupted. And so I started playing music more instead – usually on the Sonos where we could all hear it. Listening to lots more music has definitely been a silver lining of the pandemic for us. It was so fun last week when Spotify released its “Wrapped” year-end listening summaries for each of us and we could review what had dominated our year in listening. Side A of our star includes lyrics from our most-listened to songs of the year, the songs that “got us through”. We even created a family playlist of the songs that were tops on our lists. You can find it here:

Side B of our star is a mini photo album of special moments and the activities that filled our time and left an imprint: getting a trampoline, lots of bike riding (the youngest finally learned to ride a bike at age 8!!), trips to the Hackney Riviera, a holiday in the New Forest, baking sourdough, tie-dying t-shirts, playing with neighbours over the fence, making podcasts with sparkly new equipment, Zooming with family… and lots more. 

In the future when we look back on this weird, weird year, there will be lots of warm feelings and happy memories despite… you know… 2020.


By Abi

During the lockdown in spring, one of my neighbours offered sunflower seeds to anyone in the street who wanted to plant some. Despite the awful news we were hearing, it felt important to watch these sunflowers growing. The flowers, like golden stars, brought their bright hope and beauty to the homes on our street. The bees, butterflies and squirrels really enjoyed them too! One thing that struck me again as I made this 'sunflower star' was how different they turned out to be from the very ordinary seeds that my neighbours and I put in the ground. It is interesting to ponder what might emerge from this time we are in, and from the gifts or 'seeds' that we might share or plant today. 

Many neighbours have shared with others during this challenging time. I have been deeply grateful to be connected with so many people in this community who have given so much in so many ways - seeds, time, energy, skills, deliveries, support, donations - to support neighbours here and further afield. This grace and generosity has been a real privilege to see and receive... and it's great that we can all be a part of it. 

The picture in the centre of my 'sunflower star' is of Anthony Yates, one of the generous volunteers I had the privilege to meet during this year, but who is sadly no longer with us, due to a tragic accident. He spent a lot of time and energy during the first lockdown coordinating food deliveries for residents at Lea Bridge hostel. The first message he sent to me confused me a little, as it was sent to me by accident: 'Hi Abi. More food arriving in car park by garden shortly. Please come down to collect asap.' (No doubt many residents of the hostel would have been very glad to hear this news.) He also found some time to deliver food to people who needed it through the Round Chapel Old School Rooms and I met him once there when he came to collect a round in August. 

Anthony also shared his gifts by setting up a website for local mutual aid groups, had multiple business including a fruit juicing business, and ideas for charities, including setting up a homeless hostel. He was a talented artist.

His partner Kareen shared this poem with me:

Technicolour Ant - By Janine Fortune

You are everywhere,
In the bright colours of the fair
On a skateboard by the river
In a pair of shiny sunglasses
With a shy, warm smile
That bubbles into carefree laughter
As you share your gifts with the world.

Your presence so vivid, 
A vibrant splash of warmth
Shared with family friends and strangers
Memories of your kindness
Swirl in the air like the intricate patterns 
of the summer bandanas you adored.

Technicolour Ant
You dreamt of creating and shaping
change for those who could not help themselves.
Brave enough to seek your own path
You challenged convention,
with your originality that dared to be free
Hanging out with your friends,
Taking it easy, creating new goals
Guiding others to their inner child
The sunshine inside of you always 

So much fun, so much vision,
You will always be surrounded by our love.
As your eyes that smiled into soft crinkles 
Join the stars
We thank you for making our lives
Brighter, more beautiful, for having walked
These steps with you in colour.

Thursday, 10 December 2020


By Hannah

This year didn't quite work out as I'd planned. As, I imagine, it didn't for anyone. I ended my maternity leave in the new year of 2020 and quit my full time job with a grand plan of becoming a freelance photographer. In March, as lockdown 1 came round, we withheld putting our toddler into nursery and the first few photography jobs I'd booked got cancelled. And as what we all thought would be a few weeks, then 3 months, then 6 months, instead almost a year has passed and I've spent it at home full time with an energetic, delightful, and sleep thieving toddler. Something that I am incredibly grateful to have the luxury to do but which wasn't how I'd thought this year would be. 

Lots of people find it difficult to slow down. To permit themselves time to rest, especially in our busy lives where there is always something else to be doing. I have one precious nap time hour a day to myself, usually a stressful hour trying to get as many things done as I can and then sitting down with a cup of tea just in time to hear that familiar cry of a waking baby. 

A few weeks into lockdown I read something that a friend of mine @richwells shared on Instagram about his creative practice as a collage artist which inspired my to spend my hour slightly differently:
'Everytime I sit down to do some collage I have a voice in my head that says 'what are you doing, get on with some real work, it doesn't even look like anything. Anyone can cut some stupid shapes out of a magazine.' But then slowly, I lose track of time, the voices fade, and I feel alive again.' 

So every day, when the house is quiet, I sit down with a cup of tea and a good pair of scissors, and I cut some shapes out of a magazine. I enjoy it when some good colours come together, or when a couple of random shapes fit together in a pleasing way. And I don't need to think about the endless list of tasks or that pile of washing that needs doing. I never set out to make 'art' or for it to be anything other than a way to switch off for a bit. But 9 months on and I've created a whole lot of pieces of artwork, some of which I've sold, some that I've been commissioned to make. 

This year has taught many of us to look at our time in a new way and to slow down in ways that we didn't ever know city living could accommodate. Cutting a few stupid shapes out of magazines has probably been the best lesson I've learnt in a long time about the importance of slowing down, turning off my screens, putting aside my life admin and doing a bit of mindful creativity, and being content to just play. I hope that's a lesson I can carry beyond Covid.

Monday, 7 December 2020


By Annabelle Joe Hattie and Elliot 

I know that for some people Lockdown has been a wonderfully space-filled time of creative awakening,  home baking, reading and online yoga. With a full time job in the NHS and two children to home-school it didn’t really feel like that for me. This Advent it is a rare privilege to stop for a moment and reflect on the past year. As an occasional poet, I’ve always enjoyed a good thread-based metaphor: the intertwined threads of our complicated lives, the joining of people and places with cris-cross stitching, the rich tapestry of sadness and joy that makes our life’s story. Our star is made by our family - Joe, Annabelle, Elliot and Hattie - in the centre is a weaving of many threads: some brightly coloured and others long and grey. This is our 2020 - a weaving of precious moments and tiring times, a selection of threads that  we are currently still untangling,  winding round and round. We trust, with a pinch of Advent hope, that it will eventually become a beautiful star.

Sunday, 6 December 2020


By Mary

In March, the Drop-in service at Round Chapel, Old School Rooms took addresses, where possible, of our guests so Urban Table (marking 15 years) could become a delivery-only service. Throngs of volunteers came forward to enable increased provision and home deliveries. It has been truly inspiring to see this welling up. Some coordinators have carried the lion’s share in time & effort and continue to do so. 👏👏👏 And some volunteers find doing UT THE only (socially distanced) activity they do and hugely enjoy it. 
(I’ve secretly wanted to do something with a soup can for years. Thanks, AW.)

In times of loss particularly, the natural world can offer restoration that quietly builds on the inside. We are more fundamentally connected to it than busy lives can let us know. I found out recently that phytoncides, produced by some plants and trees, increase the number and activity of a type of white blood cell so our immunity is built up also. Mind, body, spirit.

Yellow socks show solidarity with young people, many of whom have felt lonely during the pandemic. They shout out ‘Lonely but not Alone’.

Who could have known that 00 lager would be so good and replace - at times, at times I say - 🍷
(The ‘can’ thing was catching!)

Many neighbours are around and working from home. We see one another lots and it feels like a real community here. Some have become friends, one even donating £s to cover nearly 1000 UT meals.

I’ve wanted to read ‘A Time of Gifts’ by Patrick Leigh Fermor for over twenty years. During a lockdown clear-out, someone left it in the lobby to take. It is a remarkable work of poetic beauty and erudition which traces a journey on foot from the Hook of Holland to Esztergorm in northern Hungary (on route to Constantinople, covered in a second book) by a nineteen-year-old Englishman in 1934. Books take you places and it was amazing to read it this year when travel has been limited.

My adopted dog changed my life! She is highly social and can run up to 40mph. During lockdown, I couldn’t but meet lots of lovely humans - socially distanced of course! We’ve kept one another laughing, every day for months. And in the absence of human hugs, Lotte gets a lot.