Letters to the editor: 07/12/17

(07 December, 2017) Letters


Magic of storytelling

This week marks International Volunteering Day), which this year highlights the positive solidarity of volunteers across the world in times of crisis.

At Beanstalk this solidarity is particularly meaningful. Our volunteers are an essential and valued part of our work to address the literacy crisis in the UK. Together we share a belief that we can drive change and improve the outcomes for children through sharing our love of books and the magic of storytelling.

Unfortunately many children do fall behind with their reading and need extra help. The majority of our volunteers spend 30 minutes with each of three children, twice a week, at a local primary school, helping them develop their confidence and reading skills.

Our volunteers change lives – without them, thousands of children would still be struggling to read, and facing all the problems associated with low literacy levels.

But we need more reading helpers to join us if we’re to be able to offer this support to all those who need it.

As a reading helper you will play a vital role in nurturing children to be the best they can be: confidence and self-esteem will be developed through fun, literacy-based activities, raising both reading attainment and future aspirations.

If you would like to give children, who otherwise may not get enough regular encouragement and support, a better chance to “read, grow and thrive” this volunteer opportunity could be for you.

As we approach the end of another year and look to the next, we want to hear from volunteers who can help pass on the magic of reading to children within their local communities in 2018.

Visit www.beanstalkcharity.org.uk or call 0845 450 0307 to find out more about our work and how you can sign up as a Beanstalk reading helper.

Ginny Lunn, Chief Executive of Beanstalk

Icing on the cake

In response to K J Barry’s “Let them eat cake” letter published in last week’s News, as the instigator of the 1947 Peek Frean Royal Wedding Cake Project and “Keeper” of the Peek Frean Museum; I felt I have the right of a reply.

First of all it’s not a real cake, as if the articles published in the News had been read correctly you would have realised that it’s a full scale model of the cake made by Peek Frean & Co, back in 1947 for the marriage of then Princess Elizabeth to Lt. Philip Mountbatten. Whilst the exterior is made of icing sugar, the interior is polystyrene.

Back in 1947 the company were so pleased with their creation, made by employees at the company, that they had a full scale replica model of the cake made. This used to stand in their reception until 1989 with the closure of the company.

From there it was transferred to the Pumphouse Museum in Rotherhithe as part of a Peek Frean Exhibition, until that closed when Southwark Council withdrew its funding.

The original model was then destroyed by squatters who had gained entry into the old Pumphouse building in 2015, turning the original model cake upside down, throwing red paint over it and sticking a large capital “A” on the glass cabinet, but taking a thank you letter written by the then Princess Elizabeth to the company and its employees, along with a pastillage statuette of St George and the Dragon which topped the model.

So what did that destruction achieve? Did it change the world, bring the government down or improve the lives of the population? No, what it did was to destroy the work of some very talented local employees… i.e. “workers” from a local company and major employer that actually cared for their staff and the wider community… in my book the destruction was a bit of an “own goal”.

If you look at the history of Peek Freans you will learn that they were one of the first companies to locally introduce the Saturday half day, have a company doctor and dentist (who extracted 1,053 teeth in his first year) way before the introduction of the NHS, annual day trips to the coast (1860’s), a library, sports and social clubs open to all employees (1890s), a Works Committee (1918), decent wages and working conditions (compared to some local employers at the time) and featured in their staff magazine topics of interest to both male and female employees (1905).

Outside of the factory gates, every November when local people stand around the War Memorial in West Lane, Bermondsey, the main mover and funder for this structure was Arthur Carr, owner of the Peek Frean Factory.

Many older locals as children will remember sliding down the glorious “Bermondsey Joy Slide” in St James’s Churchyard (demolished by Southwark Council), yet again provided by Arthur Carr. A move to bring a similar slide back is underway.

Then there were the food parcels for prisoners of war and war weapons weeks fundraising drives during WWII. Lastly, yearly Christmas Parties for children of the employees.

As for the new replica of the 1947 Royal Wedding Cake, the project was about celebrating the company, the craft and skill of its employees, not solely the Royal Family as mistaken by K J Barry. As for its construction, the model was made by members of the British Sugarcarft Guild who came from across the whole country, the world and all walks of life and differing backgrounds, and any participation in the project was on a purely voluntary basis.

The whole project was sponsored by a number of companies and organisations which like the Guild members, I personally and now publicly thank. We even had cooperation from the Royal Collection.

The current Peek Freans Museum itself in not publicly funded, in fact it receives no monetary funding whatsoever, it relies solely on donations and support in other ways, as well and mine and my colleague’s pocket. It’s free to visit, with bookings taken in advance.

In closing and to answer the final point raised…Yes the project was well worth it, every single step of the way!

Gary Magold, Keeper, Peek Frean Museum

Crimestoppers reward

When reporting crime news, you typically end with an appeal such as this, “Anyone with info can contact police by calling 101, by anonymously calling Crimestoppers on 0800 555 111, or by tweeting @MetCC.”

Could you encourage readers to look at the CrimeStoppers website? My simple ad hoc poll suggests that few people are aware that CrimeStoppers offers rewards. Perhaps you could help the appeal for information by making this more widely known, as in this example, up to £1,000 for bike crime information:

Alan Bell, Camberwell

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