I often think that many charities become a little bit complacent, believing that because they have charitable status, people should automatically feel inclined to donate to their cause. The hand of the charitable giver is usually forced, guilt tripped in to handing over cash or setting up a direct debit with a sob story, often with considerable pressure applied by the charity or person doing the asking. Having spent a year working as a charity fundraiser, this is an approach I am familiar with.
There are some charities however who obviously see that this approach might plug the occasional hole, but have set themselves up to be more sustainable, as a business, with the money generated filtered back in to their charitable work. I've been lucky enough to be involved with the Hackney Pirates, a kids after school club trying to make learning fun; an adventure. In the process of creating and learning, the children produce products that can be bought by the general public, thus helping to keep the Hackney Pirates afloat. Another charity that was brought to my attention, by someone who came on one of my walks, that takes the same approach, is DePaul UK, a charity that helps young people who are homeless, disadvantaged and vulnerable. Last year, they set up the DePaul Box Company, effectively a cardboard box business for the kind of boxes you need when you move house. As the money they make goes back to the charity, their boxes change lives.
DePaul's latest campaign is called 'Don't Let Their Stories End On The Street' for which they have teamed up with a number of east London's street artists. The likes of Ben Slow, David Shillinglaw, Best Ever, Josh Jeavons and Jim McElvaney have all produced work that tells the stories of the young people the charity supports; people who have either become homeless or are at risk of homelessness.
All the artists involved have given their time and talents for free, and as you can see from Ben Slow's piece above, certainly grabs the attention. The important part of the whole campaign however, is that each piece of street art directs people to DePaul's 'Street Stories' website. Here you will find a kind of virtual wall, filled with work by the different artists. Each piece of the wall represents a limited edition, signed, screen-print of the original and by purchasing one, you will be helping to 'clean' part of the digital wall, symbolising that gradually, through the art and the work of DePaul UK, an element of homelessness has been removed from the street.
So, as you're wandering around east London, you might come across David Shillinglaw's piece (above) which tells Shelly's story, and if you go to the 'Street Stories' website, can purchase the screenprint below, seen here, alongside another by Jim McElvaney.
On Saturday morning, I brushed up on my Portuguese, as I was joined by Davi, Silvia and Eduardo from Brazil and Leonor and Joseph from Portugal. Actually, I don't speak a word of Portuguese, so was incredibly fortuitous that the five of them spoke incredibly brilliant English. It was also handy, as we were joined by Dan from the States, who like me was limited in his foreign language ability. Here they are in Covent Garden. The guy on the right was not an obtuse member of the group, but was a random guy, evidently looking at something far more interesting.
I had started the day thinking that there would be no tour in the afternoon, due to cancellations, but Alan & Diane, Egor & Ekaterina and Grace all booked that morning when I was on my way to meet the morning walkers. It's fascinating meeting people who are able to offer their own unique perspective on the city, and Saturday afternoon was dubbed 'The Alan Tour' by Ekaterina, as Alan had worked in London 50 years ago, so was able to tell us a bit about what had changed ... which in that time is quite a lot. Here are the group in Borough Market outside The Globe, which features in the Bridget Jones Films, as it is the pub above which, Renee Zellweger lives ... in the films of course.
Here are Sundays group standing in front of one of street artist Eine's ubiquitous shop shutters which can be found painted with letters all over east London. They were flying the flag for Scotland and the States respectively.
Best trousers - Leonor
Most under-dressed - Dan
Best moustache - No winners
Most patriotic trousers - Alan (Union Jack patch)
St Etheldreda's - Ely Place
Over fourteen years ago, when I first arrived in London, I was wandering around exploring (as I still do), and found myself on a strange private road with a church that had an intriguing name. The church was called St Etheldreda's and although I had no idea where in London I was or anything about the church, found myself entering, walking along the small corridor and up the stone steps to the chapel. As I was about to enter, a wedding had evidently just finished and I had to make myself scarce as the newly married couple burst out of the chapel, pursued by a photographer and the congregation.
I've since been back on numerous occasions as like many places in London its intriguing-ness goes further than the name and reveals much about the area, a relic from a by-gone era and a story that begins 700 years ago.
The chapel of St Etheldreda's is the only surviving fragment of the medieval London palace of the Bishops of Ely, which originally encompassed vast grounds. It is apparently the oldest Catholic church in England (although of course hasn't always been Catholic) and one of only two buildings in London, remaining from the reign of Edward I. In fact, a strange London quirk, is that when you walk down Ely Place where the chapel can be found, and the tiny alley leading off that houses Ye Olde Mitre Tavern, you will officially be in Cambridge ... even today.
The first license to build a place of worship dedicated to St Etheldreda was granted back in the 13th Century to John le Francis (Bishop of Ely), and in keeping with church building of the day still featured one chapel built upon another. The palace also included a great hall, evidently a popular place for feasting, as in 1531, Henry VIII and his soon to be 'not' wife Catherine of Aragon attended a feast there that lasted for five days. It was the termination of this particular couple's marriage that had such a devastating effect on the Catholic church and their land, not just in London, but all over the country. The final nail in the coffin was dealt by Elizabeth I when she forced the land (or a great deal of it) to be handed over to a courtier she had the hots for. His name was Sir Christopher Hatton, and you'll notice the name still lingers on today in nearby Hatton Garden, London's jewellery quarter.
In the 17th Century, for a while at least, the chapel was presided over by an Anglican Bishop of Ely named Matthew Wren, perhaps now most famous for getting his nephew Christopher his first ever building commission. Christopher Wren could now easily be regarded as 'the daddy' of modern London, having spent a great deal of his life rebuilding it after the Great Fire of 1666 ... a fire which spared St Etheldreda's.
The upper chapel, although small is perhaps surprisingly more spacious than you might have guessed from outside and is dominated by an abundance of quite remarkable stained glass. The west window (above), created in 1964 is said to be the largest stained glass window in London, covering an area of over 500 square feet. The east window was installed in 1952 to replace the Victorian version destroyed in WWII. During the Victorian period incidentally, which is when the chapel reverted back to its Catholic roots, the surrounding area was a slum, and in fact Bleeding Heart Yard which you can reach by stepping through a secreted door at the far end of Ely Place is mentioned in Charles Dickens' 'Little Dorrit'.
If you do pay a visit, see if you can have a look at the crypt or undercroft, as although it's not known for certain, is thought to date back to the 6th Century. The lower part has rugged 8-feet thick walls, topped by huge darkened timbers, a simple altar, frescoes and a model of how the whole palace would have looked originally. It's perhaps not surprising that local residents took refuge in St Etheldreda's crypt during the bombing raids of WWII. Today however, it's used more frequently for wedding receptions.
I didn't write my 'weekend roundup' last week, so will make amends now, especially after we've had two nice and sunny weekends in a row. I met some lovely people this weekend, all keen to explore London, beginning on Saturday morning with Kristina and Barbara from Germany and Austria and Cheryl and her mum (or mom) Susan from Los Angeles. It was Susan's first time in London and in fact first trip out if the U.S. Here they are posing with one of London's iconic red telephone boxes, just off Fleet Street in the City of London. I hadn't noticed when I took the photo that someone has written 'The witch is dead' across the top of the phone box ... it was pointed out by Kristina I think, and must be a remnant from Margaret Thatcher's funeral last year, as the cortege made its way straight past there on its way to St Paul's cathedral.
The walk on Saturday afternoon had a distinct north American feel to it, with the exception of Kirsten & Stephen who were visiting from Scotland. Here they all are nearing the end of our wander outside The George Inn, just off Borough High Street in Southwark. Dating back to 1676, the George is the only galleried Inn left in London and is owned by the National Trust.
Sunday morning was a smallish group that aside from visitors from Canada and Denmark included three locals. We finished up in Spitalfields, where I took the below photo of the group as we walked down Wilkes Street, before finishing up outside Nicholas Hawksmoor's Christchurch.
Person who lived nearest to the walk start point - Rachael
Youngest - Bella
Most jet lagged - Larry & Shari
Most rhyming named couple - Larry & Shari
Best moustache - No winners
Last weekend, clement(ish) weather prevailed and there was a reasonably robust turn out for all three walks. James actually booked the Saturday morning walk from Trafalgar Square to St Paul's cathedral at about 12:15am that morning (or the night before). I received the email whilst driving with my friend Dave in a van back to London from Newbury having seen our friend Adam in Arthur Miller's play 'All My Sons' at the Watermill Theatre, which is very good as it happens and on until the end of the month, should you wish to see it. Anyway ... James directed his mum Rona and two aunts to find me on Saturday morning, although it turned out they had no idea what we were going to do. Luckily for everyone involved, the idea of a walk, guided by myself didn't seem to strike them as too offensive an idea. Either that or they were very polite. James turned up too and they were joined by Renata and Tufan. Here they are in Covent Garden, shortly after passing St Paul's church, sometimes known as the actor's church.
On Saturday afternoon, a group of ten joined me for the walk from St Paul's cathedral over to Bankside. Ever since I started pointing out the plethora of bits of tiny masticated street art on the Millennium Bridge; miniature canvases painted by Ben Wilson (the chewing gum man), the walk has started taking much longer. If you are mildly intrigued, then you can watch a short film about Ben Wilson painting chewing gum on the Millennium Bridge if you like. Here are the group on the south side of Norman Foster's 'wobbly bridge'. As you can see, Johanna there at the front is having a whale of the time, whilst John was keen to show his best side.
Sunday was another pretty big group, which included one of my sisters, Sarah, on her first ever walk ... with me, in an official guided type capacity. I would say they were a pretty international bunch, with a smattering of English and Northern Irish, peppered with Russian, Mexican, German and Australian. Quite often as we wander around east London on Sunday mornings, we stop off at Columbia Road Flower Market, and I've realised that I often take the group photo here before everyone heads off to have a mooch around. This is probably in case they don't come back. On Sunday, they did, and we headed down to Spitalfields where we finished the walk. I recently watched a fascinating programme online about the restoration of the incredible Georgian houses in Spitalfields, which happened in the 1980s, and also one by Dan Cruickshank about the rather eccentric Dennis Severs and his house at 18 Folgate Street, entitled 'The House That Wouldn't Die'.
Tallest - Sam
Best moustache - No winners
Best trainers - Alfonso
Highest visibility jacket - James
Most sisters on one walk - Rona, Alison & Sheila
Bowl Of Chalk
Bowl Of Chalk based shenanigans.