Lewisham Refugees Festive Market

What is Create Without Borders?
Create Without Borders is a non-profit organisation dedicated to making spaces centred on refugee creatives. These spaces range from physical events such as the Lewisham Refugee Festive Market to online galleries - all intended to recognise, celebrate and promote the incredible creative output of people with lived experience of forced migration. These spaces also create opportunities for paid work, as well as collaboration and networking with the wider community. Speaking to creatives we quickly realised that one of the common barriers to practising art is not having those connections; creativity is fundamentally a collaborative activity (that's why migration is so critical to creative cultural evolution) and being a creative is in this respect no different to being in business - it's often who you know and not what. And of course the value of creativity in maintaining mental health has been widely documented.
Another aspect of what we do is to help remove practical barriers to creative practice via our Creative Fund. This provides small grants to purchase equipment and supplies. When we say creatives by the way, we mean in the broadest possible sense - artists, writers, chefs, designers, makers of all kinds and so on.
How did you guys come to be involved with the organisation? 
We had both been volunteering with a mutual aid organisation centred on refugees previously and realised that, while front line services are essential, there is less focus on peoples' needs to contribute and participate in art and culture. We'd had successes with various online events and felt like there was the appetite and space to start something sustainable, with the capacity to make a real impact.
We're both based in Catford and what was very clear from the start of the pandemic was how much there is this incredible sense of community and solidarity in Lewisham borough. There's a well established network of charitable organisations in the area, including some working specifically with refugees and migrants, plus spring saw so many new grassroots organisations spring up to meet various needs. So we felt like this part of London was a great area to start our project. Also knowing that Lewisham is actively seeking Borough of Sanctuary status and is London Borough of Culture (or will be when the pandemic ends) is hugely encouraging, as we're basically at the intersection of both!
What can people expect at the market on Sunday 20th January? What is your objective for the event?
To bring some joy to people! It's been a hard year for everyone, we know that refugee creatives and the organisations that work with them have some wonderful things to share and people want to buy unique Christmas presents. This year more than ever there's appetite to buy thoughtfully, to spend your pounds ethically, locally and in support of independent organisations and makers; plus there's the opportunity to pick up truly unique items you *know* can't be replicated elsewhere.
Unfortunately moving to tier 3 meant we had to cancel our booked-out activity schedule, which included live music, storytelling sessions and live cooking sessions - but we're working with the organisers of the sessions to make these happen online in the new year instead!
Stallholders include:
eko, a zine published by the Goldsmith chapter of STAR which raises the voice of migrants, volunteers and activists. eko will be bringing an exciting range of merchandise.
Shelby X Studios, dedicated to artivism and campaigning, selling a range of beautiful and inspiring art and merchandise
Haven Coffee, a refugee led enterprise selling hot drinks, bagged coffee and coffee subscriptions
Refugee Cafe, which celebrates food from around the world and works with refugees who practice culinary arts
How has the global pandemic affected the plight of refugees?
All over the world the pandemic has served to shine a spotlight on existing inequalities and the effect of these. Unsurprisingly it's been especially difficult for people who have experienced forced migration. Many are housed in camps designed to accommodate only small fractions of the inhabitants, and often with extremely limited sanitation. In that situation it's impossible to follow advice on preventing or mitigating the spread of the virus; you can't maintain appropriate social distancing or self isolate when you share a tent with other people; you can't wash your hands frequently if there's no running water. This is happening in Europe right now, in Greece. And just down the road in Kent (and across the UK) people seeking asylum are being detained in overcrowded and unsuitable accommodation.
Throughout the pandemic Home Office have repeatedly ignored advice (and sometimes the law) in their treatment of people seeking asylum - for example, while there has been a ban on evictions generally, people whose asylum claim had been rejected were evicted from their accommodation (bear in mind too that over a third of applications are granted on appeal). We have heard also of people being detained and deported without access to legal advice and of unaccompanied children being detained in adult facilities. While there was an increase of £20 to Universal Credit to allow for the extra costs covid incurs, people on Asylum Benefit received only a few more pennies a day - bringing the support to just £5.66 a day. The UK refugee resettlement program was paused in March due to the pandemic, as were similar programs around the world - but while those have long since restarted, our Home Office has only just reopened the scheme and has made no commitment to extending it or providing routes of safe passage for family reunification. In fact, on International Human Rights day, they announced a raft of changes to migration legislation that will basically deprive many people seeking asylum of theirs.
Why did you choose the Mansion to host this event?
We're local, so were already familiar with the park. We were in discussions with Lewisham Council and they suggested getting in touch with the Mansion as they thought there could be room to collaborate and that's certainly been the case! The Mansion is such a fantastic space with so much character and is really loved by locals, so we couldn't think of a better place to hold an indoor market.
What work does Create Without Borders have on the horizon for 2021?
That's so tough to answer at the moment! We're working on an exciting initiative with Shelby X Studios and London Must Act to create campaign materials with the aim of galvanising support for the Europe Must Act mission, looking at Lewisham as a positive example of local action for change.
We're a relatively new organisation so there are some fundamental things we're prioritising sorting out, like a website. That will give us a more flexible and accessible space to promote creatives and sell their works - watch this space!
We're hoping to run several art exhibitions, subject to things re-opening, and are in conversations with a number of other organisations working in this space about collaborative events, especially around Refugee Week in June. Our greatest wish is that we can start organising physical events with music, dancing, food again soon - we've had a lot of success with digital formats but there's really no substitute for face to face interaction when you're collaborating. That's when the magic happens!
Facebook / Twitter @CreateWOBorders
Artwork will be for sale at Lewisham Refugee Festive Market

TAPE presents Ceremony

T A P E is a collective fighting for a more inclusive film industry. They are hosting a free pop up exhibition, CEREMONY, on Saturday 24th October, with moving image, photography and illustrations, plus a market, with all work by Black creatives and creators.

We talk to founders Angie Moneke and Isra Al Kassi to find out more.

Firstly, how was your lockdown?

Isra: I was very fortunate to be able to work from home during lockdown, while home schooling at the same time had its own difficulties, it was nice to be at home with my son. It also offered me the head space and opportunities which has led to us focusing on T A P E more and taking it to the next level.

Angie: It was a little chaotic at first. I work for a film company and we were busy (sadly) putting our productions on hiatus. A couple of them are back on the road now, which is great - though it continues to be a really unstable time for the arts industry. But besides the general anxiety of everything going on in the world, it was actually nice to have some space during lockdown to do things at a different pace. And in terms of friends & family, it feels like we've never worked harder to stay connected, which was quite beautiful.

Tell us all about TAPE - how did you come together and what do you do?

We all met as Young Programmers at the Barbican in 2013 and we went on to found T A P E in 2015 as a response to the lack of representation on screen; wanting to platform and highlight the sheer variety of under-served films we know are out there. We decided to bring exciting screenings to a South London audience (where we're based), championing the forgotten could-be cult films of the festival circuit and programmes of women of colour both behind and in front of the camera. At the time, Isra was running a community hub in Streatham and we'd already bonded over our shared desire to set up a cinema one day, so we thought we'd start by curating events, wherever we could get someone to give us the space to. Our very first screening was in the back room of a tiny cafe in Peckham - it was so DIY (literally lugging a suitcase with a borrowed projector and cables down Rye Lane) and quite removed from the scale of events we run now, but it was amazing. We had a little party after with our audience and some themed cocktails, and it felt like the beginning of a long on-going celebration of film.

Over the years we've curated a number of well rounded screenings bringing together film, art, music, talks and more into one space and events with a focus on culture, identity, heritage and stories from diasporas.

We have also produced two zine issues: the first one called They Thought We Were Token, casting a lens on the history of tokenism of people of colour in cinema, and the second issue, Moon Sisters, taking a look at the representation of periods in cinema.

Since starting with a public domain film in that community cafe, we have now expanded to delivering talks on diversity and inclusion in the industry. We are also launching a short film streaming platform called GOOD WICKEDRY on the 14th October, commissioning written content by marginalised voices, and continuing to deliver exciting film programmes which focus on heritage and identity.

You are connected to Catford Mews. How so?

Isra: I was part of the launch of Catford Mews, and its successful first year of being open. I did the programming, oversaw the membership journey, events and marketing and recently left the role to focus on the very exciting future of T A P E.

What can visitors expect on Saturday 24th Oct at CEREMONY?

We very keen to offer an event which would encourage engagement and, like most of our events, introduce attendees to some excellent work and art which they may not have come across before. We also wanted to offer an opportunity to directly support local black creators which is why CEREMONY is more than an exhibition - it will also have a select few sellers in the venue where art and handmade crafts will be available to purchase. The exhibition part will be a mix of moving image, photography and illustrations.

Are you hosting or visiting any other events as part of Black History Month?

We are part of Brixton Village’s Crossover events, taking place in their new contemporary arts space, which sees a new collective host a screening every Tuesday in October. We’ll be screening the classic horror film TALES FROM THE HOOD and have put out a call out for short film submissions to be screened before the feature. We can’t wait to showcase the shorts to a wider audience - you can find out more about it here.

What titles would be on your lists of the best short films of all time?

Atlantics - Mati Diop's short film about migration which preceded her incredible fantasy/thriller feature version of the same name

Masterpiece by Runyararo Mapfumo - just a breezy, funny and sharp look at black male joy and friendships

What does the rest of 2020 and 2021 hope for TAPE?

We’re really excited to be working on our streaming platform GOOD WICKEDRY, an online cinema platform driven by carefully considered curation of short films. Every week we'll upload one film with an accompanying article or essay.

We want to cut through the noise of excessive content by highlighting one great thing at a time - bold & invigorating choices with diversity of content so audiences can experience a rich tapestry of cinematic offerings. It will open people up to filmmakers they may not have heard of, who have created unique kinds of art that they may not have experienced before. We want this variety will build a stronger and more nuanced, but also universal, picture of the make-up of our cinematic world.

We hope to be building on our mission of creating a collaborative creative space and are working on a number of seasons and projects delivered in collaboration with a wide range of creatives, venues and organisations. More importantly, we’re looking to champion fair pay, representation and diversity in the industry.

With our vast experience in exhibition and production we are also looking to produce and distributes films and are lucky to be surrounded with such talented people who can collaborate with to deliver more exciting work in 2021.

Don't miss TAPE presents Ceremony on Saturday 24th October, 11-5pm, at the Mansion. Free entry.

Find out more about TAPE on their website, or follow them on Instagram and Facebook.

devi's x Beckenham Place Mansion

What's your background? Tell us about chef-ing, writing and which came first?

Before food, I studied economics, but found myself gravitating towards sociology and cultural anthropology. It was a really broad insight into the world of social sciences; the way we interact with one another and the way we build social relationships. It definitely sewed a seed of interest that eventually led me to work in Brazil for an NGO for favela children, as well as with children and young people in Foster Care in east London.

Cooking was something I turned to when I was feeling lost and deflated on both personal and professional levels and it then became my calling.

Tanya Gohil

I’ve been working in the food industry for the past 5 years now, predominantly running Devi’s with street food, supper clubs, events and pop up restaurants, and a few offshoots like writing, consulting and a new podcast. I started writing about 12 years ago for my university student paper. The writing I do now and the podcast, tend to focus on the social and cultural values around food and particularly women. It’s still very important to me go beyond the superficial and be quite exploratory in unpacking the new social mores that we’re quickly rewriting.

Food & Feminism is important to you. Explain what that is and why it's meaningful.

Third wave feminism really started to gather momentum at the same time I began my career in the food industry. The food world is hugely made up of white, middle class, privileged men (and women) who have a great network of established and accomplished individuals to offer them a leg-up in what still remains a very competitive and expensive industry. I get really frustrated at some of the barriers working in food presents for women like myself, and it draws on many parallels from the intersectional feminism discussion.

Devi’s started as not just an opportunity to sell the food that I wanted to and grant myself some economic freedom through working for myself, but to start aligning myself with other underrepresented women of the food realm. The Food & Feminism podcast serves to have some very real, authentic and transparent conversations with other women who feel like I do; it’s a mouthpiece for us so we can feel confident in being vocal and actually be heard.

You appeared on television as a finalist on My Million Pound Menu, BBC2's food and business series. How was that experience?

Reality television is a heinous construct and I didn’t enjoy a single second of the experience! I did it for Devi’s.

Your bio mentions Netflix? Tell us more!

My Million Pound Menu is available to watch globally on Netflix and I have received messages from people all over the world, really kind words in support of what I’m doing. It’s strange but lovely.

What can people expect from your classes at the Mansion?

devi's recipes encapsulate the osmosis of ingredients, marrying eastern Mediterranean cuisine with that of North Africa, the Middle East, Ancient Persia and India

The classes I host at the Mansion are geared towards making Beckenham Place the heart of a developing food and drink scene. I really want to meet more locals, those with a keen curiosity for the things I love. My classes are largely relaxed, fun and social and I’m hoping for regulars and for these to evolve into meet-ups. We have this glorious backdrop and setting, I really want to embrace it.

Why have you chosen Beckenham Place Mansion as a venue to host your classes?

I live across the road from Beckenham Place Mansion and I’ve been coming here since its nearly-knocked-down days. I’m thrilled with the transformation; I’ve seen it literally come back to life. I feel deeply connected to this place, I enjoy each season by coming here. It really affirms my beliefs in the strength of community. I’m really happy living here, my closest coffee shop may be Wild Bean Café at the M&S garage, but with TFC and Little Sri Lanka flanking my home and the park on my doorstep, it’s a genuine pleasure to be a part of it.

Do you have any other exciting plans for this year?

Devi’s will be popping up in and around Peckham this Summer onwards, look out for us!

Allotment Cocktail Class is on Sunday 22nd March, 12-3pm, tickets are £25.

Introduction To Natural Wine is on Thursday 26th March, 7pm-10pm, tickets £25.

Wasteless Market

What is Wasteless Market and how did it come about?

The Wasteless Market CIC is a pop up market championing vendors of consciously made goods that are environmentally responsible. We bring some of the best Zero Waste vendors together under one roof, helping the community to reduce plastic waste and fight climate change by offering sustainable eco-friendly goods and services.

Just over three years ago, my sister lost her battle with breast cancer - she was diagnosed at only 36 years old. I started to worry about the chemicals in everyday products and the amount that I was putting into my body daily. Being a single parent, I started to worry about my children; who would look after them if I wasn’t around?! Therefore, I began researching healthier, more natural options.

Many of the products I found happened to come without single-use plastic, and that is when my love of zero waste started, with a passion for the environment, the two went hand in hand perfectly. After my spray deodorant ran out, my first purchase was a natural deodorant tin and a natural baby balm. They were vegan, natural, handmade in the UK, had very few ingredients, the tins could be reused and the balm was absolutely fantastic on my daughter’s eczema! I was hooked! 

Where else have you held markets?

I’m happy to say, we’ve now had many really successful events within the borough of Bexley and due to a huge demand, we have decided to go on tour, taking the Wasteless Market to other local boroughs who have asked us to visit. Since the launch of the Wasteless Market in July 2019, dozens of people have chosen to reduce, reuse, swap or buy plastic-free products. Together we have saved so much waste from going to the incinerator already it’s truly inspiring

What can visitors expect at the Wasteless Market at the Mansion on 18th April? What kind of products will the traders be selling?

Visitors can expect a truly unique and uplifting experience. Customers love the Wasteless Market because it offers them the chance to make positive lifestyle changes which reduce their impact on the environment. They love it because of the range of beautiful and ingenious products on sale from vendors who are truly passionate about what they do, whether it is jewellery made from discarded board game pieces, vegan cosmetics in recyclable packaging, or plastic-free party bags, to name just three examples. Most of all, they love it because of the wonderful people who go there are all doing their best to make sustainable choices, whether that is through refilling their bottles with enzyme-free detergents, dropping off old toothbrushes for recycling, or learning how to make household cleaning products.

Every wonderful customer that comes through the door is there for a reason. Whether it’s to learn about natural or eco-friendly products, the Wasteless Market is helping them discover a better way. 

What is Terracycle?

The Wasteless Market also offers a Terracycle recycling drop off station run by volunteers, which gives people a recycling option that can't be fulfilled by our councils. People can bring their hard to recycle plastic packaging, such as crisp and other snack packets, coffee pods, old toothbrushes, pet food and baby food pouches, which are then sent off to Terracycle in exchange for money for the Kent Air Ambulance. So far we have raised over £200 for charities and kept hundreds of kilograms of rubbish out of the incinerator. Free advice is given to customers on how best to recycle a wide range of items.

Should visitors bring anything on the 18th? 

If possible, visitors should bring the '3 R's' - Reusable bags, Reusable cup/cutlery and Recycling (Terracycle)  - and the '3 C's' - Cards, Cash and Containers - for your refills, cakes and hot food (any kind of container, jar or bottle that can be reused). 

What easy tips do you have for our readers on how to be more green and sustainable at home? 

Some brilliant tips from our vendors are:

If you have clothes you don’t wear anymore, try refashioning! There are loads of tutorials on blogs or YouTube to guide you. Simple changes can make all the difference, even if you don’t sew. Only about 30% of saleable donated clothing is sold in the UK - more likely it’ll be shipped to a third world country. Refashioning can give your clothes a second life, and helps you learn new skills.

Focus on making little changes and don’t feel overwhelmed that those steps you are taking aren’t enough. At home we aim to make 1 difference a month to increase our sustainability. Often we find we have successfully made multiple changes because once your mindset shifts it is amazing how many opportunities you find to reduce, reuse, repair or share resources.

Take your kids to the farmers market and your local packaging free shop if you have one. Shopping packaging free and sustainably should be natural to them. 

Any other exciting plans?

We’re also launching the online Wasteless Market, a multi-vendor website giving eco-friendly businesses a platform to sell their wares. Our crowdfunder will be going live soon, see more at wastelessmarket.co.uk

I hope that you will support me on this journey, for a healthier planet and brighter future for all.



The Wasteless Market is at the Mansion on 18th April, 11:00-15:00


Successful Mums

What is Successful Mums?

A training company to help mums back to work or start a business after having children. The majority of our training courses are funded by a range of companies that support the work we do, therefore free to local mums!

When and why did you set it up? What's your background?

I created Successful Mums in 2014 when I saw a gap to support mums after a career break. I understood how it felt to have children and lose your mojo, so wanted to provide a solution. I’m a trainer and career advisor and had worked with hundreds of different industries, so had a broad understanding of what employers are looking for and the many roles that exist and are crying out for women returners!

How have you worked with the Mansion?

We run our popular taster sessions and networking events at the Mansion. This is a fantastic venue; not only for its architecture and beautiful park; but it's also a relaxing and central place for mums in the Bromley and Lewisham boroughs.  The team are so friendly and efficient and are keen to support local businesses like Successful Mums.

What can attendees expect from next week's session?

The 2 hour taster session is a fun, free and friendly event for anyone looking to return to work, change career or be their own boss. I’ll be sharing my experience of where the flexible and part time jobs are, how to fill that gap on your CV with the transferable skills from parenting, along with the 12 steps to take when starting a business.  There will be a room of like-minded mums, so it's a relaxed environment and we welcome babes in arms.

96% of mums that have attended feel more confident from the sessions and gain clarity about what they need to do next.. This makes me happy.

Any exciting plans for this year?

We are continuing with our Back To Work and Business Start Up courses, along with running a range of interesting events for flexible careers. We are very excited to be offering digital and marketing apprenticeships for women returners! This means we can provide digital training to women in the workplace too!

What are your top tips for mothers struggling to balance parenthood and work?

Take small steps, create daily habits or a checklist and don’t be too hard on yourself - we are all doing the best we can. Don’t forget to wear your invisible crown too – keep it in place.

How can mums get involved?

Join us for our next taster session and follow us across our Instagram, Facebook and LinkedIn to keep up with our exciting projects for mums. #thismumcan

New Light Concerts

How did you become a musician?

Anna - I began writing music when I turned 11. My family moved to beautiful Cape Town, South Africa and I vividly recall sitting on Hout Bay beach with my mini guitar, writing, staring out to the sea. Many years later I reached an imperative realisation that, if I was going to choose music, I had to wholeheartedly devote myself to it. So, with that, I left the UK and travelled the world for 9 months and wrote as many songs as I could, before moving to London to properly pursue a career in music.

Tell us about your career highlights so far

Anna - Some of my career highlights have been my sold out shows in London, touring the States, sound tracking and featuring in a Levis campaign, hearing my songs in some US TV shows. Performing live brings me the most joy though; connecting with your audience on stage is something that can’t be replicated anywhere else. The energy between both parties is magic.

How do you use the Mansion?

Anna - The Mansion is the epicentre of Beckenham for me; I jog around it, have enjoyed sauntering around the record store and sipped drinks from the bar, laying in the summer sun.

Susie - My partner and I moved to Beckenham in March last year and the Mansion and surrounding park were one of the first main reasons we wanted to move here. I used to run around the park most weekends, as well as lots of sunbathing here over the summer. I have also sung a number of times at the Mansion - I did my very intimate EP launch in the cafe downstairs in July and I also played at the Flower Show in June. I come here a lot and enjoy the variety of events and just chilling out here.

What can we expect from New Light Concerts?

Susie - As a very new mother (3 weeks!) I was keen to setup a daytime event that would be accessible for new parents and for anyone who doesn’t just do the 9-5. Music should be accessible to all and I felt there was a lack of daytime opportunities to hear good music so I hope these events will fulfil that.

Anna - Susie and I are thrilled to be hosting New Light Concerts as we felt there was a lack of music available to those around during the day, apart from classical. We want parents, children, the self employed, night shifters and retired to know that we’re aiming these shows at them! An opportunity to enjoy some of the best of popular music at a time that’s accessible for those not living the normal 9-5.

Why did you choose the Mansion as the venue?

Anna - We chose it because Beckenham Place Mansion is exquisite. The setting is charming and we wanted something quite special for the audience. The calibre of the show is just one component and, for us, every aspect in making it memorable is of great importance, including the venue.

Susie - So much has been injected into the Mansion and the park - as a newish venue I saw potential to get involved and for some really lovely events here. Having performed at a number of outdoor summer events here, I think the venue is truly unique, it’s in beautiful surroundings and offers so much for local residents. I’ve used it for walking, running, meeting friends for coffee, the vintage markets, music events, performing.

How did you come to hear about us?

Susie - A friend who grew up here took us on a tour of the Mansion and park before we moved here. I then started following the Mansion on social media.

Anna - My friends recommended the Mansion to me and I have been doing the same since I saw it for myself.

What are your hopes for the Mansion’s future?

Anna - To reach a broader audience from those who live a greater distance. There aren’t many other venues offering such a diverse events programme and in such gorgeous surroundings.

Susie - More of what you are doing and people coming from all over, not just local people.

Tell us about any events you have upcoming, at the Mansion or otherwise:

Susie - This is our first event at the Mansion. I am currently on maternity leave, so I hope to do many more!

Anna - I have just finished recording new material, so we're prepping music videos, photo shoots and so on. In Autumn I’ll be touring around the country with that and there's much more on the horizon too that I’m not allowed to talk about yet; I'm very excited! And as far as New Light Concerts goes, we hope to be preparing our second daytime concert!

Find out more about Anna Pancaldi on her website, Facebook, Twitter, or Instagram.

Anna's tracks are available on Spotify.


New Light Concerts are also organised by Susie B.

Christmas Family Panto

Tell us about how Take A Seat came about.

Take A Seat Productions started 5 years ago. I [Chantelle] was actually working in the city at the time and the company I worked for was organising a Family Day. I was keen to get involved and put my Musical Theatre & Drama training to good use. I knew that I wanted to create a day where families could spend time together taking part in different activities but all with a performance element to them. I wanted the events to be interactive; a chance for everyone to be involved and entertained.

What can people expect from the Christmas Panto?

We are so excited about the Panto! There will be lots of booing our Ugly Step Sisters, dancing and games with Buttons, lots of laughs and fabulous costumes! A great way to get into the festive spirit!

Do you live locally?

I live in Crystal Palace. We are so lucky to have this on our doorstep!

Why do you like hosting your events at the Mansion?

The venue is awesome, which just adds to the events. It's especially great for things like Halloween and Christmas! The staff are always on hand and so friendly and sometimes I even just pop down for a coffee and walk around the park.

Tell us about any events you have upcoming at Beckenham Place Mansion or elsewhere.

After the brilliant feedback from our Superhero Summer School, we are planning on running some more holiday workshops in Easter and the Summer.  In 2020 we will be focusing on delivering our Family Day packages to corporate clients and we are also working with lots of schools to deliver Drama workshops and offer LAMDA drama teaching. We are also very exciting to be collaborating with the Mansion on our party packages.

Take a Seat's Christmas Family Panto is on at the Mansion over two performances on 15th December: 11am and 12:30pm.

Beckenham Christmas Gin Party

Peter runs The Pedal Inn, a mobile bar events company with a special affection for gin. On 7th December they host Beckenham Christmas Gin Party at the Mansion. 

The Pedal Inn Tell us a bit about your background

I’ve worked with a range of people and in a number of sectors, but one thing keeps me going; I love working with people and adding value to their life - whether that be from a new drink they’ve tried, to giving them a great experience, it’s what makes me tick.

I've got a mixed background, having worked in Secondary Education, Corporate Customer Relations and Hospitality. 

I worked in a number of hospitality settings in my late teens to early 20s, I moved into education for a number of years as a secondary school teacher. After 5 years I felt it wasn’t for me, so moved to work in the corporate sector. 

Having entertained and been entertained at a number of restaurants and bars, I had some great experiences and some not so great ones, too. It started to play on my mind that you could put a lot of corporate customer service into hospitality.

Where does your love of Gin come from?

I made a conscious decision in my early 20s to replace beer with gin, as it was a lower calorie option. Over the years, and since doing this job, I’ve fallen in love with the complexity and variety that comes with gin, from its impressive and interesting history to the fact that in just 5 years the number of producers in the UK alone is around 360 (give or take). I just think it’s a fascinating beverage.

How did your business idea come about?

We’ve always wanted to run a mobile bar; we ran the bar at our own wedding; but never had the financial freedom to run it as a business. After carefully putting some ideas together and saving a Pashley Trike from landfill, 2018 was the right time to get our plan rolling. We wanted to bring learnings and experience from different sectors into our business model, so we focus on great customer service and education, as well as trying to build a bar business that has minimal environmental impact. There are now three arms to what we do:

  • Festival and Market Bar
  • Wedding and Event Bars
  • Masterclasses and Tasting Night

Our unique approach to designing and running Masterclasses and Tasting Nights has been really enjoyable. We’ve been to a couple of experiences hosted by a number of brands in the city and the issue we found with these sessions was the speakers trying to sell you their products. Our idea was to deliver a tasting and experience session similar to what was available at distilleries and in the City, but providing variety of brands and opinion, rather than delivering a sales pitch.

What were the highlights from the summer Gin Masterclasses?

We had some great feedback from our Gin Masterclasses over the summer. One of our highlights was seeing familiar faces come back for the varied sessions we ran. It created a small community, as well as clarified to us that we were doing something that people enjoyed. We received some great feedback from ticket holders and we were really proud to bring something new and different to the area.

You’re holding a Christmas Gin Party at the Mansion on 7th December. What can people expect?

The Christmas Gin Party will celebrate the adaptability of gin. Bottle Room ticket holders can expect a well stocked bar with a variety of premium and artisan gins and a spinning wheel to help those not too sure what they want to have. 

Our VIPs will get access to the Bottle Room, but also have the chance to be talked through 6 carefully selected local gins from London and the Home Counties. We’ve already secured 3 of the brands we’d like to offer, and are talking to and tasting a few more, to ensure we’ve got a great variety to pair with grazing platters. 

We also have entertainment on the night, with a local duo playing some background music at the start and a sing-along duo helping us celebrate to the end. 

We are likely to run a token-based system so all drinks will be the same price, except for a couple of small batch and limited edition bottles which will come with a premium price tag.

Why the Mansion?

What’s not to love about the Mansion? It’s an original community space and we have loved delivering our Masterclasses there. It made sense to celebrate Christmas and Gin at the Mansion with the local community.

Any other plans for the future?

We definitely want to deliver our Masterclasses again next summer, so we’re hoping Peckish returns so we can collaborate there. We’re already getting booked for events next year, including our first Rainbow wedding, which we’re really proud to be a part of. 

Dependent on the success of the Christmas Gin Party, we will look to host another party in the summer or host a larger scale Gin Festival for more people to enjoy! We can’t consider these, however, until we make The Christmas Gin Party a success, so we urge people to book. With only 150 tickets available and over 1100 people showing an interest in tickets, we do suggest booking soon to avoid disappointment!

Event profile: Free Family Film Festival

The third annual Free Family Film Festival at Beckenham Place Mansion is on Sunday 1st of September.

Everyone is welcome at this one-day celebration of cinema in the community. We speak with Saskia van Roomen, the organiser of the Free Family Film Festival and founder of Bromley Family Film Club.

What is Bromley Family Film Club?

The Bromley Family Film Club was set up in 2015 to offer a relaxed space for local children and families to enjoy a film and take part in creative activities together. We are an inclusive club and especially cater for children and young people with additional needs.

As the club has grown, we have added other activities like this Free Film Festival and the European Film Festival last March. We come together at the Bromley Central Library on the last Saturday of each month in the darker months of the year.

What can we expect from this year’s Festival?

This is our third year already and we have a full programme of films and activities for the whole family. Visitors can expect animation workshops, a giant kaleidoscope for the little ones to play with and make their own mini version to take away, arts and craft activities, storytelling and sun print workshops.

Stop motion animator Tim Allen, who worked on films such as Fantastic Mr Fox (which we are screening), Isle of Dogs, Shaun the Sheep and many others, is coming to give a bespoke workshop for 12 lucky children. He will also introduce our last film of the day, Fantastic Mr Fox, and give us an insight into how they made the film.

For those who just want to kick back and watch films, we have a varied programme with short animations from all over the world, an exciting classic American film showing the adventures of a little boy in Coney Island, a beautiful French-African tale, slapstick with live piano and, of course, Fantastic Mr Fox. The films are highly enjoyable and suitable for everyone.

For the day’s full schedule visit https://www.mansionmovies.com/schedule

How do you put it together?

I work with a group of wonderful volunteers on our monthly screenings at the Bromley Library and the Festival has grown quite organically from there. We all have children of similar ages and we organise events that we think our own children would enjoy. Our ethos is to be quite adventurous and ambitious with our programming and we work with artists and professional filmmakers in order to achieve this. Our films and activities should stimulate the imagination and encourage discussion.

Why the Mansion?

The Mansion has always been a special place for me personally as I have walked in the park on almost a daily basis for the last ten years. When I noticed that the Mansion was opening up to the public and was looking for community initiatives, I saw a perfect place to realise a long harboured wish: to organise a film festival. We are extremely lucky to have the support of the management team at The Mansion and also Lewisham Council, who have always provided the core funding for the Festival. I especially love the atmosphere and faded grandeur of The Mansion. A perfect place to watch a movie! The grandiose views and safe environment for children is another aspect that has made our event so special.

What other exciting things do you have coming up?

This year we are re-branding as ‘Small World Cinema’ to place more emphasis on our programming of films from all over the world. Film has a unique ability to promote and encourage inclusion and togetherness which is so important in our current climate. We are passionate to show films with something to say about the world and the way children and young people experience it. Our aim is to come together, broaden our kids’ outlook on the world and to simply have fun. For more information please email: bromleyfilmclub@gmail.com

For the day’s full schedule visit https://www.mansionmovies.com/schedule

Places for films and events are allocated on a first come first served basis, so arrive early to avoid disappointment.

Clothes Swap

As part of Peckish Place Park; our weekly summer event on Thursday evenings with workshops inside and street food, drinks and fun outdoors; we are hosting a Clothes Swap event in the Mansion on Thursday 30th May.

Natalie Holmes is the founder of Pickled Jellybeans (fb, insta), a local small business selling eco-friendly products & organic children's clothing. We talk to her about her inspiration for setting up the Clothes Swap and how the concept works.

How has the Clothes Swap come about?

Back in December I set up Pickled Jellybeans, which sells eco-friendly products. A lady saw one of my posts and shared it in the Greener & Cleaner Bromley (& beyond) Facebook group. I'm keen to get involved in local eco-projects, and when I saw a lady I follow on Instagram had been to a Clothes Swap, I thought, ‘What a great idea’.

I posted in Greener & Cleaner Bromley to see if there was any interest in such an event and got a really positive response. The team at the Mansion also responded to the post, offering it as a venue, and it's just gone from there.

What is the ambition for the Clothes Swap?

I would personally like to see the Clothes Swap become a great success. For many reasons, I think it's a great way of revamping your wardrobe without adding to it. It's perfect for people who are in the process of losing weight and are in-between sizes and also for those who have put on weight but don't want to buy a new wardrobe.

If money is tight, it's also an ideal solution if you need some "new" clothes. It's a great way to swap the clothes that don't work for you for ones that do.

Additionally, from an environmental perspective, it's a great way to reduce the amount of new clothes you purchase. It's scary when you see stats such as making one cotton shirt, uses the equivalent of enough water for one person to consume in 2.5 years* and that is just one shirt!

It's frightening as well as the amount of greenhouse gases the fashion industry produces. A clothes swap is a positive event to help cut down people's desire to buy new.

How did you come to hear about us?

I live in Bromley. I'd heard of the Mansion but had never been before, until you offered it as a potential venue for the clothes swap. I think the setting is amazing and the ambience is fantastic. I like the fact the inside is not ‘perfect’ and has kept so much character.

What is the plan after Thursday’s event?

I would like to see the Clothes Swap become a regular event. It would be great to do a kid's Clothes Swap, and adult clothes and accessories, too. There is a lot of scope.

The Clothes Swap takes place on Thursday 30th May.

People are invited to drop off any clothing they would like to include in the swap event between 4pm and 6.30pm on the 30th May. You will receive a token per item they drop off. The clothes swap will take place between 7.30pm and 9.30pm. This is a non cash event and hopefully the first of many to come.

Alongside the Clothes Swap, we will also have a refill station of vegan toiletries and cleaning products, hand-crafted bamboo straws and vegan candles.

Outside, Peckish takes place with vegan and vegetarian street food and music, 4pm-10pm.

*source: National Geographic / World Economic Forum’s Facebook video, A clothing-based Climate Catastrophe