Konnichiwa! Learn Japanese at Charlton House

It’s one of the better-kept secrets, and probably the best educational bargain, in Charlton. The International Institute of Education in London (IIEL) has been training teachers of Japanese as a foreign language in Charlton House since 2001.

Charlton House, by Neil ClasperThe bonus for the rest of us? Free courses in Japanese at all levels, from absolute beginners who don’t know their kanji from their konnichiwa to students with more fluency in the language.

I discovered IIEL by chance more than five years ago, picking up a leaflet from the counter of a local fish-and-chip shop. Although I had been to Japan and loved its culture, I was an absolute beginner. Now classed as a post-beginner, I mainly realise how much more there is to learn.

Students come from all over London and represent all ages and backgrounds. Some have a Japanese partner or spouse; some are keen to get more out of their interest in manga or anime or, like me, want to enhance the experience of visiting Japan. Others simply seek the mental discipline of learning a new language.

Since the students are the guinea pigs for the trainee teachers, it’s not the competitive classroom atmosphere you might remember from school. The students want the teachers, who are being filmed for later feedback by their trainers and peers, to do well, just as much as they want to do well – and learn – themselves.

IIEL trains 70 to 80 teachers each year at Charlton House. Many of the Japanese trainees come to London expecting to study in a concrete block and surprised to find themselves in a Jacobean mansion more than 400 years old.

Junko Fuse, teacher trainer and course co-ordinator, says: “They’re really impressed when we tell them about the history of Charlton House.”

IIEL’s approach differs from some other Japanese teacher-training programmes. “We try not to depend on English”,  she says. The teachers it trains might go anywhere. Its graduates work in eastern Europe and Russia and elsewhere in Asia, as well as at home in Japan. Another of its programmes trains teachers of English to very young children who have Japanese as their mother tongue.

IIEL has been in London for 25 years. It moved to Charlton House to become more involved in a local community. That instinct proved well-founded three years ago.

Junko san recalls the “kindness shown by people around us in March 2011, when the Great Eastern Earthquake and tsunami hit the northeast of Japan. A flood of emails and cards came to our office concerning victims and their families in Japan.”

“Some people simply turned up and said how sad they felt watching TV,” she adds. “It cheered us up and really moved us. We held a charity event in April that year. Many people from Charlton and elsewhere kindly joined us that day, and we were able to donate more than £2,000 to the Red Cross in Japan. I realised then that this is why we had moved from central London and that this job is what I really want to do.“

Community involvement is a continuing theme. A few times a year, trainee teachers give short presentations in English about aspects of Japanese culture. The free sessions at Charlton House are open to the public with advance notice.

The next Japanese language classes are due to start in March. After a one-time registration fee of £20, all classes – however many years you study – are free.

Details about registration and course dates: http://www.iiel.org.uk/english/eventsandother/freejapanese.html

General information: enquiries@iiel.org.uk

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‘Musical Beacons’ community project returns to Charlton

Beacons Flyer Photo 2Rachael Perrin from Soundcastle has been in touch with details of a free community musical project, taking place over the coming weeks in Charlton.

I’m very excited to be able to announce the return of Musical Beacons! A FREE 9 week community music project in Charlton, open to everyone – all ages and levels of ability. No experience of music required! Whether you’re a virtuosic violinist or a toddler with a tambourine you will be welcomed into a nurturing musical environment that celebrates who you are and the music you make. You will be amazed at the quality of music and songs you can create!

What is Musical Beacons?
It is a unique creative music project that brings local people of all ages and abilities together to create new music inspired by who you are and where you live. If you already play an instrument bring it along or, if not, get ready to explore an array of drums, ukuleles, balafons and percussion instruments provided by Soundcastle.

“When the music started you could see the joy in people’s eyes and I had a tear in mine!”
Audience Member, Charlton Beacons 2012

Watch the film from 2012: 

Dates: Mondays (9 Sessions)

February: 24th
March: 3rd, 10th, 17th, 24th, 31st
April: 28, May 12th,19th

Time: 4-5.15pm

Venue: Charlton Assembly Rooms, Charlton, London SE7 8UD

All young people and children must be accompanied by an adult. This is a fantastic chance to create something with your friends and families.

To book your free place please email: Rachael@soundcastle.co.uk or call 07525 059 570.

Find out more at Soundcastle’s website. 

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Sign up and help protect Charlton’s White Swan pub

The White Swan, Charlton
The Charlton Society has launched a petition to try to help secure the future of The White Swan pub amid fears for the future of its parent company, Punch Taverns.

The petition asks Greenwich Council to declare the Swan an asset of community value.

If the council approves, it would mean that if the building is put up for sale, then there would be a six-month pause on the sale to enable the community to put together a bid to buy it. To avoid this, the building would have to be sold as a going concern.

While the pub is not under any immediate threat, it was closed for a spell late last year with Punch Taverns’ rent demands casting long-term worries about its future. But Punch itself, which also owns the Bugle Horn, is deeply in debt, with the future of the whole business in the balance.

So the petition’s aimed at making it harder for any future owner of the business to try to sell the building for redevelopment, and to try to ensure that it’s kept in business as a pub.

At the moment, there’s signs of optimism – a 164-strong Facebook group has organised a number of meet-ups in the pub – and there’s a manager in charge who’s interested in developing the business.

While the Charlton Society can ask the council to declare the Swan an asset of community value on its own, proof of interest in the community will help. So sign up, and let’s help try to get the Swan’s future sorted.

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Will Charlton Park petition flush out public toilet improvements?

Charlton Park public toilets

The proprietors of the Old Cottage Coffee Shop have raised a petition asking Greenwich Council to refurbish the public toilets in Charlton Park. The petition highlights the poor state of the facilities, including the lack of hot water, the absence of baby-changing facilities, and evidence of drug-taking in the toilets. Comments left on the online petition reinforce these concerns:

“These toilets are disgusting and a refurb of them is long overdue!, I dread it when we are at the cafe or in the exercise park and the kids need the loo! I’d rather they go by a tree than go in those dirty, needle infested toilets!”

“These toilets really are in a bad shape but are at a strategic location with cricket and football pitches, a 2012 legacy outdoor gym and a really popular café. All these facilities need proper toilet facilities.”

“Charlton Park is the heart of Charlton and loved by many. It is an ideal place for many activities and is otherwise very tidy and well-maintained. Sadly the lack of usable toilet facilities means you can’t stay too long!”

“Can’t believe we need to petition for usable, clean, drug free toilets in our community.”

You can sign the petition here.

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Charlton Lido gym opens – pool to follow ‘for Easter’


The new gym building, replacing the old front entrance

Charlton lido’s gym facilities opened this week, with the pool expected to re-open “around Easter”. The gym and studio facilities are in a new building which has replaced the original entrance; new changing rooms for the pool have been built along the east side, though the outdoor cubicles and showers installed for the original reopening in 2012 are still in place. A cafe will open on the second floor above the gym, with ‘sun terraces’ to each side.

Opening times are currently 6am-10pm Monday to Thursday, 6am-8pm on Friday, and 9am-5pm on Saturday and Sunday. Check the official website for the latest opening times here.

The headline adult monthly fee seems to be around £54, although GLL have been advertising deals for existing customers of David Lloyd at Kidbrooke.

Charlton Lido, November 2010

The lido entrance as it looked in 2010

Have you joined up, or tried out the new gym? Let us know what you think of it in the comments below!


The new entrance


New bike racks

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What’s on in Charlton: February

Thames Pilots at the Anchor & Hope

Thames Pilots at the Anchor & Hope – photo © Neil Clasper

Dates for your diary
A round-up of February events we’ve found in and around SE7. What have we missed? Let us know in the comments below or email neilclasper[at]gmail.com, and we’ll update the post as we get the chance.

4th Feb, 7pm: Charlton Rail Users Group (CRUG) annual open meeting, Charlton Liberal Club, Charlton Church Lane.

7th, 14th, 21st, 28th Feb, 1pm: Friday Lunchtime Concerts, Charlton House.

13th Feb, 8.30pm: Charlton Pub Quiz, Rose of Denmark, Woolwich Rd.

15th Feb, 2.30pm: Charlton Society talk – John Beckham on ‘Wildlife in our local parks‘, Charlton House.

20th February, 7-9pm: Death Cafe at Charlton House. “Join us in the comfortable Dutch room to drink tea, eat cake and discuss life, death and what comes after!”.

20-22nd February, various times: the Alexandra Players’ performance of ‘Sleeping Beauty’, Alexandra Hall, Bramshot Avenue.

26th February, 6.30pm: Global Fusion Music and Arts’ Fairtrade Fortnight Networking Event, Charlton House. “Fairtrade stalls including clothing, food, gifts, books, arts, and massage; plus dance, music and poetry – including a few songs from the GFMA singing group. Topping the bill will be the amazing Kora player Mosi Conde from Guinea – and if fancy trying your hand at drumming, Tai Chi or African dance, there will be some fun taster sessions”. Free entry. Email globalfusionarts@yahoo.co.uk.

Disclaimer: These listings are up to date to the best of our knowledge, but we advise checking  details with the event organisers before attending any events.

Photo feature
Have you got a Charlton photo you’d like to share with the world? A shot of your favourite part of SE7, or a recent event? We’d love to feature some readers’ photos in our monthly diary round-up. Send your image to neilclasper[at]gmail.com with a title and – if you like – some words to tell us what the picture means to you (don’t worry: we’ll attribute the photo as you wish, and you’ll keep full control of copyright).

PS. The Charlton Champion is now on Facebook – you can ‘like’ us here: https://www.facebook.com/CharltonChampion!

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Could Charlton get a community council? Have your say…

Could a community council help promote Charlton's attractions?

Could a community council help promote Charlton’s attractions more effectively?

Do you know what a community council is? It’s something you might be hearing a bit more of in the next few months, as the Government’s given a small grant to The Charlton Society to promote and explore the possibilities of handing the people of SE7 a little bit more power over their lives. So – would you want to get involved? Read on…

Parish councils were abolished in London in 1899, when the metropolitan boroughs – the forerunners to today’s London boroughs – were set up. But they still thrive outside London, as a tier below borough or district councils. They can take charge of a range of services such as community centres, open spaces, allotments, flower beds, some planning functions – whatever they want to take on, so long as their local borough or district council is happy to devolve to them.

You don’t have to travel a million miles to see them in action – the nearest to us are close to Dartford: Stone Parish Council and Wilmington Parish Council. If you want to scroll through others in Kent, take a look here.

In London, it’s been the boroughs that have taken on an increasing range of functions over the years. That can mean that many communities can feel overlooked.

But a 2007 law means that parish or community councils can now be established in London. The first is in Queen’s Park, north-west London, where elections will be held in May. There’s also an established campaign to set one up in London Fields, Hackney.

So, where does Charlton fit into this? This isn’t about declaring UDI from the borough of Greenwich. But there’s certainly a growing appetite within the SE7 area for people to get involved and make their area a better place.

Yet the current structure of local government doesn’t recognise that, while there’s been an explicit shift within Greenwich Council in the past decade or so to concentrate on the centres of Greenwich, Woolwich and Eltham. Similar funding has been granted to a campaign in Plumstead, another area where many feel overlooked.

The theory goes that a community council will be able to get Charlton punching at its weight again, and will mean local people have control over local services.

A community council could beautify streets with flowerbeds, or install signs welcoming people to the area. It could take control of council-run community halls, commission extra street cleaning or arrange volunteers, or run youth or children’s facilities.

Here’s what they’re doing in Queen’s Park: “Help for young and vulnerable people, the prevention of crime and anti-social behaviour, support for local business, as well as specific proposals including community events and the establishment of a Youth Council.”

Is this something you could get involved in?

Charlton Church Lane, 19 January 2014

A community council could make sure Charlton’s streets are better maintained

One thing it shouldn’t be is party political – often those who are most active in the area will have some political background, but for this to work, party rosettes and personal grudges should be left at the door. Making this happen, I suspect, will be one of the bigger challenges. Persuading Greenwich Council could also be a challenge – but the Queen’s Park campaign won over Westminster Council, which saw the advantages in having a local body to work with.

Another challenge will be making sure the council benefits all of SE7, from the estates to the estate agents’ favourite streets – and not just those who shout the loudest, or who are the most affluent or well-spoken, or live in Charlton village, or the current Charlton council ward. Current election arrangements mean it should be easy to set the council up, although there may be a very small overlap into areas of SE3, SE10 and maybe SE18.

All this will cost some money though – a community council will be able to levy a small precept on the council tax. This is likely to be only a few pounds, but would give the council a budget of, perhaps a couple of hundred thousand pounds each year. A community council would need to persuade you that it’s good value for money.

But most of all, it’d need to involve you. There’ll be a public meeting later this year to discuss the idea, and it’d need to be approved by a referendum and by Greenwich Council’s cabinet.

So would you like the chance to get involved with how your area is run – or do you think it’d just be another layer of bureaucracy? The Charlton Society’s Nikki Coates will post more about this issue at a later date, and she’ll be happy to answer any question you have. But what do you think of the idea – would you get involved?

Posted in Charlton, Charlton news | 11 Comments