Illegal: Charlton author’s graphic novel scoops top award

Andrew Donkin, Eoin Colfer and Giovanni Rigano
Prize guys: Andrew Donkin, Eoin Colfer and Giovanni Rigano

A graphic novel about a boy’s epic journey to Europe co-written by a Charlton author has won a prestigious book award in Ireland.

Illegal, written by Eoin Colfer and SE7-based Andrew Donkin, and with illustrations by Giovanni Rigano, scooped the Judges’ Special Award at the Children’s Books Ireland Awards in Dublin yesterday.

Judges said: “This timely and powerful graphic novel charts a young boy’s journey across the Sahara Desert on the long, dangerous trek towards Italy and the potential for a new life there and reunion with his sister.

“This affecting book weaves together real stories of migration with immersive, naturalistic illustrations and carefully paced, minimalistic text. Combining intensity with accessibility, this is an important book that will stimulate important conversations and reflection about human rights, inclusion, solidarity, and prejudice.”

The trio, who have previously worked on adaptating Colfer’s sci-fi fantasy series Artemis Fowl as graphic novels, have picked up a string of plaudits for Illegal, which was published last year.

Colfer collected the prize at the Irish capital’s Smock Alley Theatre.

The Guardian called the book “a deeply affecting and thought-provoking account of the 21st-century refugee experience”.

Donkin said the inspiration for the book came from seeing a small news report of a migrants’ boat sinking in the Mediterranean, killing scores of people: “It seemed extraordinary that thousands of people were dying on Europe’s doorstep and there was hardly a mention in mainstream media at the time.

“When a sinking was mentioned it was just in terms of numbers – no individuals, no personalities, no names. Eoin, Giovanni and I decided that we wanted to take one of those numbers and tell their story.

“What we wanted to do was to ask our readers to see each of those numbers as a human being with a favourite colour and a favourite football team just like them.”

A pane from Illegal

He added: “We knew straight away that we wanted to tell the story of Illegal as a graphic novel. Graphic novel just means a posh comic and it brings a wry smile to the faces of life-long comic readers who remember buying comics on grubby newsprint for five pence when they were a kid. We wanted to reach an audience that wouldn’t pick up a broadsheet newspaper.

“Eoin and I did more research for the writing of Illegal than for any other book. We read everything that we could find, attended conferences, and conducted interviews with people who had made the journey as well as aid workers.

“We were determined to get every detail as accurate as we possibly could. We worked closely with two fantastic charities: Women For Refugee Women and Migrant Voice. Hearing the stories of the people that they help was incredibly humbling and also a great motivator for the three of us.”

The book has already been translated into 10 different languages – and has also been a hit in France – and is due to be published in the US in August.

Illegal cover

The book is available from Ottie and the Bea on Old Dover Road, Blackheath, and online via and You can read more about Andrew Donkin’s work at (or @AndrewDonkin on Twitter).

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.


Week-round swimming returns to Charlton Lido for the summer

Charlton Lido – not always this quiet in the summer…

Good news for swimmers: Charlton Lido’s summer timetable starts soon:

  • 7 day-a-week pool opening starts again on Tuesday 29th May:
    • Mondays 6.30am – 8pm
    • Tuesday-Friday 7am – 8pm
    • Saturday-Sunday 9am – 5pm.

In other lido news, the cafe will re-open Wednesday 23rd May, opening hours to be announced.

The start of summer opening hours should also mean it’ll be possible to fit in a swim before the Greenwich Book Festival event being held in the lido’s upstairs cafe on June 14th.

As ever, we recommend checking the website for the latest pool opening information.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

Open Garden Squares Weekend: take a look around Charlton Manor school’s Secret Garden

News in from Charlton Manor school:

Tickets are now on sale for Charlton Manor primary school’s Secret Garden Open Day, part of Open Garden Squares Weekend.

Charlton Manor’s award-winning Secret Garden opens to the public on Saturday 9 June from 10am to 5pm with a farmer’s market, refreshments, school-made produce from the garden, pond-dipping, exploration of the school’s observation beehive and a tour of the garden with staff available to answer questions.

The Secret Garden at Charlton Manor is packed with learning opportunities and as well as having a chicken run and beehives, it also has a stag beetle environment, a composting area, flower beds, vegetables, fruit trees, vines, greenhouse, wildlife area and bird hide.

In 2012 Charlton Manor led schools from Greenwich on a learning journey into plant care, resulting in growing beautiful cut flowers, being awarded a silver-gilt medal at the Chelsea Flower Show and meeting Her Majesty the Queen. Every year since the school has been involved at Chelsea and Hampton Court Flower Shows and Bexley in Bloom.

Now’s your chance to discover Charlton Manor’s Secret Garden. A number of years ago it was derelict. Today it’s a haven.

Entry to Charlton Manor’s Secret Garden Open Day and Farmers Market is just £4, there’s no need to book – just turn up on the day. Weekend tickets (to cover all gardens) £15 in advance / £20 over the weekend. Under 12s go free.

Open Garden Squares Weekend Tickets can also be booked online, visit

To find out more about Charlton Manor Primary Schools Secret Garden, visit


PS. If you’re in the Charlton area and are opening your garden for Open Garden Squares weekend, let us know.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

Charlton’s trains change on Sunday: Do you know your new times?

Thameslink class 700 trains
These Thameslink trains will start stopping at Charlton this Sunday

The biggest shake-up in SE London’s rail services for many years begins on Sunday – with Charlton gaining Thameslink trains to Blackfriars, St Pancras and beyond but losing some trains to Cannon Street.

Completely new timetables come into force as London Bridge’s new central platforms formally open for business, allowing more trains from Kent, Sussex and south London to run through to Farringdon, St Pancras, Luton and Bedford, as well as new destination such as Finsbury Park, Peterborough and Cambridge.

Charlton will be on a new Thameslink service linking Rainham in Kent with Luton, which replaces the old Southeastern trains from Charing Cross to Gillingham, although will run via Greenwich rather than Lewisham.

Two Southeastern trains to Cannon Street via Greenwich remain, while a new service from Dartford to Charing Cross will run via Blackheath and Lewisham.

So while Charlton still gets eight trains per hour off-peak (six on Sundays) – all stopping at London Bridge – they will run to different destinations. The Thameslink trains will only run as far as Kentish Town on Sundays.

Expect some teething problems as the new timetable beds down – a few Thameslink trains appear to have been deleted from early timetables after reports of issues with getting new trains into service, so double-check if you are using the new route.

Separately, Sunday’s service will be disrupted by engineering works.

Heading into town, your service from Charlton should be…

00 to Cannon Street via Greenwich
06 to Charing Cross via Lewisham
10 to Luton via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
20 to Cannon Street via Greenwich
30 to Cannon Street via Greenwich

36 to Charing Cross via Lewisham
40 to Luton via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
50 to Cannon Street via Greenwich

Heading away from town, this is how the service looks…

05 Rainham (not calling at Woolwich Dockyard, Belvedere, Erith)
08 all stations to Dartford
15 all stations to Barnehurst
25 all stations to Crayford (and back to Cannon Street via Sidcup)

35 Rainham (not calling at Woolwich Dockyard, Belvedere, Erith)
38 all stations to Dartford
45 all stations to Barnehurst
55 all stations to Crayford (and back to Cannon Street via Sidcup)

This is what your new morning rush-hour service looks like…

0529 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0547 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0559 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0617 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0628 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0635 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0647 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0659 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0704 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0710 Luton via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
0721 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0730 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0733 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0740 Luton via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
0746 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0753 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0757 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0810 West Hampstead via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
0813 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0820 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0830 Cannon Street via Greenwich

0840 West Hampstead via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
0847 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0850 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0900 Cannon Street via Greenwich

0906 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0920 Cannon Street via Greenwich
0930 Cannon Street via Greenwich

0936 Charing Cross via Lewisham
0940 Luton via Greenwich, Blackfriars and St Pancras
0950 Cannon Street via Greenwich

For journeys home, and to double-check the above, use National Rail Enquiries.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

‘We’re not changing our store name’: Decathlon turns its back on Charlton

Decathlon Charlton
Where am I? Decathlon opens at the end of the month

Sports retailer Decathlon has snubbed nearly 200 locals to insist it will be calling its new store “Greenwich”, despite being firmly inside Charlton.

192 people signed The Charlton Champion‘s petition to ask the chain to acknowledge the sporting heritage of the are where it will open its new store at the end of the month.

The petition will stay open until the end of the week, when we will present it to Decathlon to give the firm one more chance to show its pride in an area that’s home to Charlton Athletic, Charlton Lido, the Charlton Park cricket and skateboard hubs, Hornfair Park BMX track and two non-league football clubs.

A Decathlon UK spokesperson told The Charlton Champion: “We are honoured that our new store is located in Charlton. However, due to the shopping park being called Greenwich Shopping Park we decided to keep this symmetry with the name of the store, as per other stores in the shopping park and call our store Greenwich Decathlon.”

Decathlon promotion
Decathlon staffers promote their “Greenwich” store (which is actually in Charlton) in Greenwich during the London Marathon

The new store will sit just east of Charlton Asda, west of Charlton Riverside Sainsbury’s and M&S, and south of Primark Charlton, whose store manager invited The Charlton Champion to its launch last year made a point of emphasising the branch’s location.

While possibly not the most urgent issue in the area, there is a serious message behind this – if Charlton is to get on its feet and improve itself, it needs major employers in the district to be proud of the area and acknowledge it.

And while, frankly, the stores calling themselves “Greenwich” on the retail park aren’t worth writing about anyway, we hoped better of Decathlon. We like their stuff. We’d like them to engage with an area with a deep sporting heritage.

Petition respondent Maria Tawn said: “They only do it because they think Greenwich sounds more upmarket! Snobbery still exists in the 21st century, especially amongst PR people.”

And Jamie Bannister added: “As a Greenwich resident I agree with this – confusing, nonsensical and a disservice to Charlton.”

The petition closes on Friday – so please sign and show store manager Kieran O’Shea that we’re proud of Charlton, and he should be too.

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

A Murder Is Announced: The Alexandra Players bring Miss Marple to Charlton

Alexandra Players poster - a murder is announced

The Alexandra Players are back at Bramshot Hall at the end of the month with their latest production, Agatha Christie’s A Murder Is Announced:

“An announcement in the local paper states the time and place of a murder to occur. When the victim falls, Miss Marple is on hand to provide the final solution”. 

8pm, Wednesday 30th May – Saturday 2nd June 2018. Doors open at 7.30pm. 

Seats £9 Concessions £8.

Book online, by text, phone or email:

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.

Beyond The Suffragettes: Exhibition launch at Charlton House this Friday

Royal Greenwich Heritage Trust are celebrating the centenary of women’s suffrage this Friday with ‘A musical journey through 500 years, featuring Emmeline Pankhurst’s March of the Women and a brand new song commissioned by the BBC‘.

The event takes place in The Old Library, Charlton House, from 3.30pm. Entry is free, RSVP to office [at]

The Charlton Champion provides news and information about issues and events in London SE7. Help us by telling us your stories – or buy the author a coffee.