An inclusive Havering performing arts organisation has teamed up with an EastEnders star as it continues its fightback from the Covid pandemic.

The Habbit Factory’s artistic director and chief executive, Lee Giles, describes its mission as “about breaking down the barriers to the performing arts”.

Lee, 31, who has been in the role for just more than ten years, first encountered The Habbit Factory, which was formed in 2004, as a child.

He said he “kept coming back” to the performing arts sessions it hosted, drawn by the fact it was “people and young children that came together for a bit of fun”.

Romford Recorder: Lee Giles, artistic director and chief executive of The Habbit FactoryLee Giles, artistic director and chief executive of The Habbit Factory (Image: Greg Veit Photography)

Since he took the helm in 2011, the organisation has grown to encompass more staff, more children and more nights teaching the kids.

However, as Lee puts it, the “pandemic was crippling”.

With sessions and shows at a standstill, Lee said it forced he and the team to review how they had run The Habbit Factory to date, with the need to promote their work a key realisation.

After opening up again in September 2021, with support from Arts Council England, Lee said staff were investigating ways in which a more active role could be taken in this area.

And then, almost as if by chance, EastEnders actress Lucy Benjamin came along.

Romford Recorder: Lucy BenjaminLucy Benjamin (Image: PA Archive/PA Images)

Lee said Lucy, known for her portrayal of Lisa Fowler in the BBC soap, lives in Havering and had initially taken an interest as her daughter wanted to do her Duke of Edinburgh Award with them.

“She heard of the work that we have been doing, and I spoke to her and asked if she would be a patron of us,” said Lee.

Lucy obliged and Lee said her role, which will involve media work on behalf of The Habbit Factory, just feels “right”.

“She’s the right person because she represents who we are. Also, for us it’s very, very, very important that we have somebody, but it’s equally important that we didn’t rush into having anyone.”

With the future looking bright for Lee and co., he is quick to say there are still areas requiring work, most essentially a need for more staff.

However, the uptick in fortune over the last year or so is certainly not lost.

“We are now in a place where we are thinking, ‘what next?’”