Recorder letters: Panto, VJ Day, banks, Napier and New Plymouth and more

PUBLISHED: 12:00 23 August 2020

Last year's Queen's Theatre's panto was Robin Hood. Picture: Mark Sepple

Last year's Queen's Theatre's panto was Robin Hood. Picture: Mark Sepple


Letters sent in from Recorder readers this week.

Loss of panto a sad moment in my 70-year love of theatre

David J Savage, The Green, South Ockendon, writes:

I was so sorry to read in your newspaper last week that the Queen’s Theatre, Hornchurch, and three other London venues, will not be staging pantomimes this winter due to pandemic social distancing restrictions imposed by ‘Bumbling’ Boris’s government which belatedly reacted to the crisis in the arts world, but appears not to be interested in the fate of those making drama relevant at community level.

As well as highlighting the impact on finances, Queen’s Theatre’s artistic director Douglas Rintoul and executive director Mathew Russell were right to point out that the pantomime experience “is so important for huge numbers of children enjoying the magic of their first theatre visit”.

I am a case in point, having, aged four, been taken by my maternal grandparents to see my first pantomime.

It was Cinderella at the Penge Empire - now a Tesco store - although I must confess that my main interest was in the Shetland ponies who left a trail of droppings as they pulled the heroine’s glittering coach across the stage .

Mum and Dad continued the Christmas tradition by taking me and my younger sister to the annual pantos presented at the Davies Theatre, Croydon - long since demolished - by husband and wife team ‘Odd Ode’. Cyril Fletcher (always the dame) and Betty Astell (always the principal boy).

Their version of Cinderella included a song entitled Who Put The Spots on the Dalmatian Dog? during which six examples of the breed were unleashed into the audience, one of them licking my face!

My love of the performing arts, including participation in community events in south London, Hornchurch and Basildon, has remained for more than 70 years and I have the programmes - many of them signed - of most of the shows I have seen.

Meanwhile, my wish is that the New Year will usher in the arrival of an anti-Covid vaccine so that when the 2021 festive season arrives we will be able to see our postponed pantomimes without the fear of health concerns.

Thanks for St Andrew’s VJ event

Cllr Gerry O’Sullivan, St Andrew’s ward, Hornchurch Resident’s Association, writes:

On Sunday, August 15, the Rev Ken Wylie along with members of the Royal British Legion Hornchurch and residents conducted a short service outside St Andrew’s Church to commemorate the 75th anniversary of VJ Day.

This was the day that Japan announced its surrender to the Allied Forces in the Far East bringing an end to the Second World War.

A two-minute silence was observed, and prayers were said for those who had died for their various countries in this terrible war.

A large number of people attended the service outside St Andrew’s Church. Wreaths were laid by local resident councillors, members of the Royal British Legion and residents. It is very important that we continue to mark this date in our history.

Following the service those in attendance were invited back to the British Legion for refreshments.

I would like to express my sincere gratitude to the ladies of the British Legion for arranging the commemoration on behalf of the people of Hornchurch.

We want banks in our towns

D Ainsworth, Barnstaple Road, Romford, writes:

Banking was once a profession that was looked to - if in banking, you were indeed respected. But locally, what’s it now stooped to?

Lloyds Bank have a branch situated in the heart of our town, at a busy junction of Market Place, South, North and High Streets. However, once inside, customers immediately notice only two cashiers’ positions.

There used to be four, then it was reduced to three, and now although three positions are still available, one is permanently blocked off.

Yet within Havering, over the years, Lloyds have shut six branches at Collier Row, Gidea Park, Harold Hill, Harold Wood, Romford South Street (opposite the telephone exchange) and Upminster.

Many desire cashier-based counter service as they distrust phone and internet banking.

If two positions at a busy Romford branch is deemed a giving good service - then I’m King Faisal!

Positive way to address need for homes

Cllr Robert Benham, deputy leader, Havering Council, writes:

In response to Cllr Williamson’s letter in last week’s issue, I want to clarify that, despite assertions to the contrary the council and Wates, our joint venture partner, have acted entirely sensibly in advancing development at Napier and New Plymouth.

Prior to Covid-19 this scheme was clearly financially viable. But, as we all know, Covid-19 has had an adverse impact on the economy and the housing market. In relation to Napier and New Plymouth, this particularly affected previous assumptions about sales values, which were now likely to be below those previously forecast. This affected viability. All very straight-forward.

In order to positively address this new challenge the scheme has been converted to being 100 per cent council homes.

Yes, this will cost more but it will also provide the council with additional new homes which are much needed for our local people and over time will support the sustainability of the Housing Revenue Account.

So, we think that this is good news with a positive approach enabling progress to be made in delivering new homes for local people.

‘Freedom to die’ were my words

Cllr Jason Frost, cabinet member, Health and Adult Care Services, writes:

If Cllr Durant cared to read my letter of August 7 a little more carefully he would have realised that in choosing to use the words ‘freedom to die’ were used to demonstrate implications of his extreme libertarianism; I did not at any point attribute them to him.

They are my words, and were chosen mindfully and deliberately.

Given that we are blessed to live in a nation where freedom of speech is considered to be a right of every subject of the Crown, I do not feel that in making the statement I did was in anyway a breach of the Code of Conduct nor of legitimate political debate.

In his willingness to seek legal sanction against my right to offer legitimate criticisms of his political ideas I think Cllr Durant reveals the weakness inherent in his own argument?

Victory in our mast objections

Cllrs Stephanie Nunn and Barry Mugglestone, Elm Park ward, write:

We are pleased to advise that we have been successful in our objection to planning application M0009.20 for a 20m mast and nine cabinets to be installed in Maybank Avenue at the rear of Tesco’s Airfield.

The mast and nine cabinets would have been in addition to the existing mast and five cabinets already installed, making a total of 14 cabinets along a narrow footpath that is in constant use.

Residents advised us of their wishes in terms of respecting the character of the neighbourhood and safety on the footpath and we actively campaigned against this as we are resident led.

We would like to thank our Hornchurch Residents’ Association colleagues in Hacton ward and all residents who raised objections.

Blood test waits will lead to deaths

Liz Ormston, Stanley Close, Hornchurch, writes:

Today I tried to book an online blood test for an elderly neighbour after a GP visit.

At our nearest testing centre, the Elm Park Clinic, the earliest appointment was for November and the earliest appointment anywhere in our NHS area was for September 14.

When my neighbour called back to the GP surgery they advised there was nothing they could do about it as this is the new normal.

Yes we are in a pandemic but failure to provide basic diagnostic services such as blood tests will lead to more ‘excess’ deaths due to other conditions that could otherwise be prevented.

You may also want to watch:

An imposed bias at the council

Cllr Keith Darvill, leader, Havering Labour Group, writes:

Is council leader Damian White trying to create a one party state here in Havering? The gerrymandering of the Local Government Boundary Review by the Tories and the Harold Wood RA side kicks shows contempt for all forms of opposition.

Bob Perry has no need to apologise for the revelations he recorded and disseminated.

Fortunately the “bungled attempt” to gerrymander was so obvious to the Boundary Commission, that it rejected most of the proposals.

Notwithstanding the final recommendations of the Boundary Commission, the outcome and revelations from the Conservative Members Meeting needs to be the subject of a truly independent inquiry which should not be led by an officer with connections to the council.

More generally there is a lack of reform in Havering Council particularly with the Overview & Scrutiny arrangements.

The reforms proposed with cross party support have been ditched and there is an imposed bias ie all chairs and vice chairs of committees and sub-committees are occupied by Tories or the Harold Wood RAs.

This means that the Tory council administration is not being checked up on nor scrutinised as the government says it should be.

Damian White should do the decent thing and resign.

Jobs for the boys to bolster Lords

Eamonn Mahon, chairman, Brooklands Residents Association, writes:

Boris Johnson has been accused of ‘making a mockery of democracy’ following the announcement of 36 new peerages.

These include his brother Joe, Tory donor Michael Spencer and Brexiteer Sir Ian Botham.

The new additions to the House of Lords are likely to cost tax payers £1.1million a year so Boris Johnson has filled the ever growing House of Lords with his friends, family and fellow Brexiteers.

How ironic since the Brexiteers war cry was against the elite of the EU, now this elite receives £305 for each day they attend.

The cost of appointing his cronies is staggering at the best of times, never mind when the country is on the brink of economic crisis.

Philip May (husband of former PM Theresa May) is being awarded a knighthood for ‘political service’.

How can this man be considered equal with Captain Sir Tom Moore who raises £35million for the NHS?

Talk about jobs for the boys, and bolstering the House of Lords.

Recycle bags a waste of money

Mrs W Way, Hornbeam Close, Brentwood, writes:

Cllr Chris Hossack [Brentwood Council leader] has made a very, very big mistake in giving us very large recycle bags.

A blue bag for for paper and card and a white sack for plastic and cans. Dustmen are leaving a lot of these bags unemptied with yellow labels on but are not telling what is in there that shouldn’t be.

Plastic is plastic, card is card but no it isn’t and we do not know what is recyclable and what is not.

I have always recycled with the food box, green garden sack and an orange sack.

All I have seen around Brentwood are white and blue sacks that have not been collected.

I’ve heard residents saying that are not going to bother anymore and put everything in black sacks so Chris Hossack will have achieved nothing but wasted our council money. I dread to think how much these monster bags have cost. They are very hard to to store too and weigh 2lb empty.

Residents are now asking to go back to orange sacks and let us take these new sacks back to the council town hall.

Check if you can get pension credit

June Bennett, Benefit Answers, writes:

Thousands of pensioners have started to receive letters that ends their automatic right to a free TV licence.

A recent campaign by Benefitanswers to highlight the fact that four out of ten households that could receive pension credit are not claiming the benefit identified over £350,000 in unclaimed benefits and that half of those checked would be entitled to a free TV licence.

So, if you have ever wondered if you could be eligible for pension credit now is the time to find out if only to save the cost of the TV licence. For a free check telephone 0330 223 4773. All it will cost you is the time to make a telephone call and the price of a stamp!

Hold a Macmillan coffee morning

Emma Tingley, Macmillan’s strategic partnerships manager for London, writes:

I am writing to ask your readers to raise a mug for Macmillan Cancer Support’s 30th annual Coffee Morning so we can provide vital support to people with cancer, who need it now more than ever.

This year’s Macmillan Coffee Morning will be on Friday, September 25, but we are encouraging people to get involved whenever and wherever they can by hosting a virtual or socially distanced event. Nothing stops a Macmillan Coffee Morning!

Macmillan is doing everything we can to offer medical, emotional and financial support to people living with cancer and our work is almost entirely funded by donations.

Every penny raised by Coffee Morning helps Macmillan to provide this support, which is needed now more than ever before.

Readers can sign up now by visiting or by searching for Macmillan Coffee Morning.

For support, information, or just a chat, you can call Macmillan free on 0808 808 0000 or visit

Be more vocal in support of police

Terence F Matthews LL B (Hons), retired police inspector, Clement Way, Upminster, writes:

I had to look twice at the heading of Chris Hobbs letter, as I thought it conveyed exactly how I feel about the way my ex-colleagues are treated by some members of the public.

I accept that most people support the police but they need to be more vocal about it.

The way that certain black MPs and so-called celebrities act when legally stopped by police is a disgrace. It is no surprise that people of colour are stopped more than white people in areas where there is a large concentration of non-white residents. I would expect more white people than ethnic minority people will be stopped in Havering as it is a white majority borough.

In the latest fiasco, a BMW carrying a black MP was stopped because the officers made a mistake inputting a registration number (quite easily done in a moving vehicle). People should know that massive amounts of drugs are moved around the country and a vehicle from a place miles away would be checked.

The officers admitted the mistake and apologised but that was not good enough for this arrogant MP who used the incident to smear every police officer in the country.

She should apologise to every person who has been or is still a police officer. I was in the Met for 23 years and nobody ever accused me of racism, but of course the Lawrence enquiry smeared me along with every other Met officer.

If people want to talk about race, colour or religion, they should not have to fear all the hate thrown at them if they are white.

I could not believe it when the police commissioner apologised to the MP because she was upset. What message does this send to our over-worked police force. Officers doing their job should not have the head of their force undermining their actions.

As far as I am concerned; people should be treated with respect whoever they are until the time, by their actions, they do not deserve that respect.

If you value what this story gives you, please consider supporting the Romford Recorder. Click the link in the orange box above for details.

Become a supporter

This newspaper has been a central part of community life for many years. Our industry faces testing times, which is why we're asking for your support. Every contribution will help us continue to produce local journalism that makes a measurable difference to our community.

Latest from the Romford Recorder