11-13 year-olds: Make music and get active with The Big Red Bus Club this summer

power up flyer

Charlton’s Big Red Bus Club has been busy branching out recently – its latest venture is into summer sessions to help 11 to 13-year-olds rebuild their confidence through music and fun after a shattering 16 months. The club’s ANNIE DREWRY explains more…

March 16, 2020 was, for many children, simply the day the music died. For those kids that didn’t already have instruments at home or access to private online lessons, music simply disappeared.

In Charlton, like the rest of the country, music education not only came to an abrupt halt. Not just the lessons ending, but the community music programmes such as the after-school drumming clubs or choirs that were as much about friendship as they were the performances that resulted from them.

For your average 11-year-old, the summer is full of music. It’s when you head down to Primark to pick up your outfit for your final primary school disco, or the nervous excitement waiting to find out if you’ve got a song in your final school play. It’s endless practising for your final year assemblies, and the sharing of playlists among friends – the friends that you will leave as a memory of your childhood as you move to secondary school and make the friends that will see you become an adult.

The Big Red Bus Club has always believed in the power of the arts to build our community in Charlton, whether it be two toddlers sharing finger-painting or the mums in our Baby Blues Choir raising awareness of maternal mental health through performance. We know friendships are built when we create together.

So this summer, we are putting on two free programmes for Charlton’s 11-13 year olds.

Pump it Up, a week-long series of music workshops culminating in kids creating their own track and recording it, and Power Up, a whole week of activities ranging from pottery to engineering activities specifically for girls.

Last year was hard. At the Big Red Bus Club we want to bring the music back into kids’ lives, help them make local friends and to hang out and just be kids again.

You can help by letting local kids know that we are here.

Pump It Up: Monday 26 to Friday 30 July, 11-4pm, music workshops including singing, percussion and composition with a whole range of local artists.

Power Up (girls only): Monday 2 to Friday 6 August, 10-3pm, wellbeing workshops including pottery, yoga, engineering and a day trip.

To book for either free programme, visit thebigredbusclub.com/summerschemes.


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Greenwich planning chair clashes with residents in Charlton Riverside row

Aitch Charlton render
Aitch wants to build 188 homes close to the Thames Barrier

Greenwich’s chair of planning was ticked off by a former council leader on Tuesday night after he clashed with residents over what new buildings on the Charlton Riverside should look like.

Labour councillor Stephen Brain challenged members of local lobby groups who are insisting that a masterplan drawn up to redevelop the area, involving building thousands of homes but keeping tall buildings to a minimum, should be followed closely.

But Dave Picton, who led Greenwich Council for two years in the late 1980s, said he was “surprised” that Brain was not following a ruling made last year which defined 10 storeys as “high rise” for the area.

The exchanges took place as councillors on the planning board met to decide whether 188 homes in blocks of up to nine storeys should be built by the developer Aitch on land behind the derelict Victoria pub, close to the Thames Barrier.

Last week, the same planning board rejected a housing association’s plans to build 67 affordable-rent homes after local lobby groups complained about the development’s seven-storey height.

Those same residents returned to the town hall last night to object to Aitch’s plans, which only include 40 affordable-rent homes and 10 for shared ownership – five percentage points short of the council’s target of 35 per cent “affordable” homes.

But in a meeting disrupted by Covid restrictions – the government has banned councils from holding their most important meetings online, despite the continuing pandemic – Brain and the residents started to fall out.

The masterplan suggests a maximum height of 10 storeys in the area to differentiate it from the Greenwich Peninsula and Woolwich’s Royal Arsenal, and to complement the low-rise nature of the wider Charlton area. But in the area where Aitch wants to build the new homes, the guidelines suggests three to six storeys. A further complication is that ground-floor housing is not allowed because of the risk of flooding around the Thames Barrier.

Roden Richardson, speaking for the Charlton Society, said that allowing a nine-storey block would be a “major departure” from the masterplan.

The “unacceptable heights” would set an “extremely worrying precedent” for the rest of the riverside area, he said, resulting in even denser development and the need for additional infrastructure.

Eastmoor Street
The Aitch development site as it is now, viewed from Eastmoor Sreet

But Brain said: “What special character does the area have currently? From the Woolwich Road down to the river – in terms of scrapyards and people who will take your wheels off your car if you stand still for more than five minutes.

“I don’t think this development, in my experience, is high rise. Any definition in any architecture book would define high rise as being above 11 storeys.”

Richardson responded: “The character is Charlton as a whole, not just the riverside.”

“But the application is for the riverside,” Brain said.

An irritated-sounding Richardson said: “We’re going back a long way with the creation of the masterplan – one of the key points of the masterplan was the riverside’s integration with Charlton as a whole.”

Brain replied: “I don’t want to be argumentative, but I’m going to be because I’m the chair, but in that case you should be building three-bedroom Victorian houses. Or from what I was hearing last week, perhaps it should be an estate of bungalows? Or bungalows on stilts because they wouldn’t comply with the environmental safety regulation.”

He then cut Richardson off to move on to the next speaker.

David Gayther, from the Charlton Central Residents’ Association – which covers streets about half a mile from the proposed development – said he found Brain’s comments “disturbing”.

Denying that local lobby groups were looking for “three storey Victorian housing”, he said that the masterplan called for “reasonably high-density, mixed use, medium height development that promotes quite a different community … a blank canvas on which to build a new Charlton that avoids some of the mistakes of Woolwich”.

“I do understand masterplans,” Brain shot back at the end of Gayther’s contribution.

Aitch render
Aitch’s view from Westmoor Street looking south

Picton referred to a planning inspector’s findings when plans for 10-storey blocks off Anchor and Hope Lane were thrown out last year. “The inspector differentiated between Greenwich [Peninsula] and Woolwich, and Charlton riverside.

“He said explicitly that Charlton riverside was urban, it wasn’t metropolitan. In terms of height, he said very clearly that 10 storeys on Charlton riverside is high rise. That view was endorsed by the secretary of state and I’m surprised that you don’t seem to have picked that up.”

Contradicting his earlier remark, Brain said: “I thought mid-rise were defined as being between five and 12 storeys, and high-rises were 13 floors and above, and that’s my definition that I tend to work to.”

The levels of “affordable” housing also came under scrutiny, although one member of the planning board, Abbey Wood Labour councillor Clive Mardner, had to have London Affordable Rent levels explained to him – even though one of his other roles on the council is chairing the housing scrutiny panel.

London Affordable Rent is a policy of London’s Labour mayor Sadiq Khan. It sets levels at about half of market rent – higher than council or social rents offered to existing tenants, which are about 40 per cent of market rent – but are available to people on universal credit. The housing charity Shelter has questioned whether London Affordable Rent is set at a fair level, but it is usually the cheapest rent available.

When questioned why the development did not offer social rents, Greenwich’s principal planner Jillian Halford said that London Affordable Rent was “certainly affordable to borough residents”.

“We may disagree on that,” Mardner said. Greenwich Council itself uses London Affordable Rent for its new Greenwich Builds properties – schemes which Mardner has voted in favour of.

Aitch render
A view of the Aitch scheme looking east from Penhall Road

Asked by Glyndon councllor Sandra Bauer why “affordable” housing levels had dropped from 35 to 30 percent, Halford said that the cut had been made to keep the development viable after original plans for 10 storeys were dropped.

Brenda Taggart from Charlton Together, another lobby group, questioned the developer’s attitude to “affordable” housing after a series of upward and downward revisions, saying it “has more elasticity than my old grandma’s knickers”.

The planning meeting had to end after two hours because of Covid restrictions – the cramped 115-year-old Woolwich Town Hall chamber is he only meeting room fitted with cameras so meetings can be viewed remotely, and councillors can only meet for two hours with a 15-minute break to air the chamber.

The restrictions have played havoc with Greenwich’s planning meetings, which had been held online with only a few hitches until communities secretary Robert Jenrick and a court ruling stopped the practice for councils’ decision-making meetings.

Councillors will hear from the developer and resume their deliberations on 20 July.


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Lidofest: Charlton Lido to host Britain’s first festival in a lido

Charlton Lido
Lidofest will take over Charlton Lido on 21 August

Charlton Lido is to play host to what its organisers say will be Britain’s first festival in a lido next month – promising mermaid displays and synchronised swimming demos as well as fancy dress competitions and swim races.

Lidofest, to take place on Saturday 21 August, will also offer free swimming classes for ticket holders as well as DJs and a guest appearance from Alice Dearing, who will be representing Team GB in the marathon swimming race at the Tokyo Olympics.

Clare Ruby, who came up with the idea, said it came to her while doing lengths at the lido one morning. “The lido is such a great space but a lot of swimming events are about doing competitive challenges and I felt a need for something that celebrates all the fun stuff you can do in the water as well as those events,” she said.

“Charlton is perfect for this as it has the main 50-metre heated pool, a splash pool for the kids, terraces for viewing and lots of space for activities. Swimming outdoors at a lido always feels special and it is great to see so many of these beautiful outdoor pools having a resurgence and getting the love they deserve.”

Clare and her Lidofest co-creator Sophie Morgan – who run Swimadelica, an online gift shop for swimmers – say the swimming sessions are part of their ambition to make the activity accessible to all. “We believe swimming is for everyone regardless of your age, ability, race, gender or body shape,” she said.

“There’s something for everyone, from fancy dress competitions, festival glitter face painting, book readings, inflatable races, masters swim coaching, mermaid swimming lessons, synchro displays, swimming with professional mermaids – all for both adults and children.”

10 per cent of profits from the event will go to the Black Swimming Association, which aims to improve diversity in aquatics, and Level Water, which provides one-to-one swimming lessons for children with disabilities; a pay-it-forward option will give ticket-buyers the chance to buy a ticket for someone who would otherwise be unable to attend.

Tickets start at £30 for adults and £5 for children and are available via Eventbrite. For more details, visit lidofest.com.


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