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Sewing Clubs at Olive Road London

Want to know how to fix your vintage and charity shop finds? Or mend your favourite pair of jeans? Come along to my new Sew & Mend Club in East London.

As a vintage fashion fan I know how frustrating it can be spending hours rummaging though rails at a vintage fair, finding that perfect vintage dress but discovering it is a bit snug, too long or the sleeves cut the arms in just the wrong place. The club will help you to alter your unique outfit.

Did you know that 87% of all textiles end up in landfill? We can help reduce this waste by sewing and mending our clothes or re-using the fabric for another project. My jeans always fray between the thighs, a simple trick to reinforce them before the hole appears extends their life.

The vintage dress below was missing all of it’s buttons when I bought it from a kilo vintage fair. I have a stash of vintage buttons to make an outfit look as good as new such as these floral buttons.

Jeans can be tricky to take up the hems and keep their professional finish but with this little trick they look brand new.

Designed as a collaborative group rather than a formal teaching environment, the idea is to inspire you to alter and mend your favourite clothes. The club starts on 23rd July and takes place every other Monday evening (6:30 to 8:30pm). It costs £5.50 per session with access to sewing machines and sewing equipment, plus a stash of fabrics and trims for patches and upcycling. I’ll be on hand to help with basic sewing skills and advice. We all approach sewing techniques differently and you will be encouraged to share your ideas and sewing knowledge with others. All levels welcome from beginners to experts. The club offers a friendly environment with two hours to dedicate to sewing. Get those sewing jobs finished that you never get round to.

Spaces are limited to 10 people per session, pre-booking is recommended and available here. Email me on if you have any questions. If you live close to Bow (E3), I also co-ordinate a local sewing group the opposite Mondays to the Bethnal Green dates, more details here. Look forward to seeing you soon!

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Eco Sewing with Fabrications founder Barley Massey

The Fashion Revolution Week campaign was in full swing last night at Fabrications, the eco sewing studio and shop on Broadway Market in East London. Founder Barley Massey, Offset Warehouse’s Charlie Ross, Stichless TV’s Tree and Threadworks’ Lydia invited sewing fans to the shop for an eco sewing party….

Running a bit late, I walk into a hive of activity. Every inch of the shop is being used by party goers to cut fabrics in graphic prints, queues are forming for the sewing machines and the familiar whizz of their motors is filling the air. I make my way downstairs and meet a similar scene with every sewing machine and work surface being used. The eco sewing party is in full swing and I feel like I have been whisked back in time to the rag trade of old East End without the sweat and steam.

I manage to find Barley cutting lengths of printed jersey from a selection of Offset Warehouse’s fabric that is sold in the shop. Charlie from Offset Warehouse and Barley hosted the evening in support of Fashion Revolution Week. As a fashion designer, Charlie was frustrated with trying to find fabrics from an ethical source, leading her to set up her own ethical fabric business. I discovered this amazing business from the Making Good podcast, which gives an interesting insight into Charlie’s inspiration and ethos. I select a petrol blue jersey with a tonal bird print and start cutting a pattern on Barley’s genius drop down cutting table (I definitely need one of these!). Shorts are being sewn upstairs overseen by Threadworks London founder Lydia Higginson, downstairs Tree from Stitchless TV is showing everyone how to make T-shirts.

A few weeks before the party I caught up with super-crafter Barley Massey the founder of Fabrications, over a cuppa sharing our passion for charity shops and the re-purposing old clothes. I interrupted Barley mid-sewing session in her bright basement studio cutting a length of denim fabric. She is busy making ra-ra skirts from remnants of men’s shirts that had already been used on another project, stitching them to denim fabric that someone had given her.

photo copyright of Fabrications

‘I don’t buy new clothes any more’ Barley replies when I admire her belted top. She had constructed it from two shirts that she found in a charity shop. ‘I make things myself, people give me clothes and I find jeans in charity shops like these black Lee Cooper ones from the Woolworth Road. They had their original packing on them and everything’. I’ve brought cake and Barley switches on a 1970’s kettle that she inherited from her Nan. It fits perfectly into the studio created from reclaimed items. My favourite is the curtains stitched together from old ties that act as kitchen cupboards.

I first met Barley when I joined her ‘Refresh your wardrobe‘ class last year. She teaches people how to mend their clothes, cutting and restyling to give them a new lease of life. I ask Barley where she got the inspiration to build her eco-sewing school and studio. ‘The shop side is an evolution’. Barley explains she was looking for a studio space and Hackney council wanted to update Broadway Market and offered her the lease on this shop eighteen years ago. ‘I thought a window on the world would be good as well as a studio. At each stage we introduced new elements. Sustainable, recycling and upcycling seemed obvious to me. My nan’s generation taught me a lot of craft skills at a young age and I want to pass on those values. I grew up in Wales and we lived very resourcefully from growing our own veg to making our own clothes. When I was setting up my own business, it made sense to continue with my family ways’.

Barley started her career in fashion and sewing making costumes for TV, including working for Sands films. ‘They were already good at reusing things but it depended on the production. Some customers required new cloth but they sourced old fabrics, collected old patchwork and lace and reused it. I learnt how to make things out of scraps but it looked like original Elizabethan embroidery, really inventive.’

‘Once I started working with waste fabrics I became more aware of the fashion waste problem. I have access to textile recycling centres and it is such an eye opener. The volume of textile waste that comes in and that is only from within the M25’. Barley goes on to explain that many of the products are cheap clothing with their labels still intact ‘People have lost the value for things because it is so cheap. Some people need affordable clothing but it can become wasteful and over consuming’. Barley tells me she has always had a passion for second hand and vintage shopping. ‘I don’t buy any new things now. Lots of people want to step away from fast fashion’

Love Your Clothes and Recycle for London commission Barley to teach sewing repair workshops to a variety of community groups and fashion fans, linking up with various charity shops such as Traid. Barley met a woman from Thailand at one of the events who explained their is not a culture of waste in her home country ‘the concept of charity shops doesn’t exist. Even when the item is threadbare it is used as rags for cleaning’. We both agree that small actions help to create change and people learning to sew helps adapt their behaviour and attitude to buying new clothes. ‘I bring along lots of examples to get people inspired’. Barley hosts a monthly craft club in her studio and sewing enthusiast Piere has managed to re-fit an old coat to his size by removing the sleeves with Barley’s help.

‘If you are trying to save money, it is expensive to get a repair done. Being creative, seeing potential in things they might not have thought was possible. Repairing clothes is good for environment but also if someone loves something it has a longer use. Barley has taken this passion further and now offers a customised sewing service called ‘Remember Me‘. ‘It is a service for someone who has lost a love one and they have kept their clothes. I make a special memorial item or help them to make it themselves. It is healing for that person and it can really help someone through a difficult time to have something tangible to remember their loved one by. One customer came with his wife’s clothes and we chatted through what he would like. His wife had died just after childbirth and their daughter didn’t know her mum. So he wanted to do something special, he had kept the clothes for a long time, so we made a quilt from them for his daughter. I could see he was very happy, a kind of poetic upcycling’.

The idea came to Barley when a customer saw some pieces she had made in a magazine. ‘It took her two years to visit the shop after she had lost her husband, she needed time to be ready. She arrived with a big yellow suitcase full of clothes and I made about ten cushions. All different, one for each child. She thought carefully about which garment was significant for each of them. That is how the service was born. It had such a positive impact on that family I wanted to offer it to more people.’

The sewers at the eco sewing party are starting to show off their handy work and I haven’t even begun to piece my shorts together yet. I’ve been too busy chatting to a group of women who all make their clothes such as Sasha who knitted this gorgeous linen mix jumper and Fiona who made this fun zebra print blouse. Fiona makes us laugh by telling us she often  has a queue of people at her corporate office desk asking for repairs including a man who had split his trousers! We share ideas on our about favourite patterns, fabric shops and workshops.

Barley gathers us all together to pick the raffle prizes and the winners are suitably excited. It has been fun evening supporting Fashion Revolution Week. I’ve enjoyed meeting  like minded people who want to influence a positive change to the fashion industry after the tragedy of the Rana Plaza incident in Bangladesh. This is the second year Barley and Charlie have hosted the eco sewing party and I’m sure they will continue next year after the success of this evening. I’ve made a start by overlocking my shorts together but they are going to have to be a home project as everyone is packing up and the temporary sewing hive returns to a shop and workshop.

There is still time to get involved – on Saturday Fabrications are hosting a Hackathon with some fantastic prizes to be won for the best re-fashions on the day.

Barley, Tree and Charlie
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Olive Road at Pop Up Vintage Fair this Saturday

You can find Olive Road this Saturday at Pop Up Vintage Fairs at the fabulous Walthamstow Assembly Hall, Forest Road, London E17 4JF. We will be there 12 to 5pm. I picked up lots of exciting of new (old) pieces on my recent trip to Melbourne and will be selling them this Saturday. Here is a sneak peak of some of the pieces you can find on our stall. See you there!

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Fabrications: How to mend your clothes

I cuddled my hot cup of tea outside the famous York Hall in Bethnal Green questioning why I had deserted my warm bed so early on a Sunday morning. I surveyed the other people in the queue; There was a group of twenty something boys sporting cropped 1980s wedge hair cuts enthusing about nineties sportswear they might discover inside. The doors swing open and I expect Willie Wonker to be standing there instead of a burly faced security guard. I flash my ticket in front of his face and dash down the corridor into the wooden floored hall famous for its boxing matches watched by the who’s who of the East End of London. Hopefully there would be no fighting today for this vintage kilo sale. Rows and rows of bright printed fabrics clustered into skirts, jeans, dresses and that all important sportswear my fellow queuers had been keen to get their hands on. Clothing piled high meant there was no time to contemplate, grab now or regret it later! I quickly scanned the rails and picked up anything that looked vaguely interesting. When I could carry no more, I huddled into a corner to check the items packed into my arms were worth their weight in vintage. It wasn’t until I got home I realised my checking had been in vain, a few of the delicate dresses I had collected had small tears in them or were missing buttons.

One of the reasons I love selling vintage fashion is to preserve interesting, well made clothes and rescue them from the bin. I wasn’t ready to give up on this stash of vintage clothing yet. I’ve been sewing since I was a child but I wanted to make sure any clothes I mend have a professional finish. That evening I signed up for Garment Repairs and Alterations Workshop and a few weeks later, I found myself in a light airy basement in Broadway Market in East London. As my eyes stumbled to the row of curtains made from old ties, I knew I was going to feel right at home. The owner of this wonderful place, Barley, made me feel welcome and checked that I had used a sewing machine before as the early arrivals were already stitching away.

Rachael and David (photo above) had come along so they could alter their clothes to stop them from being thrown away. David had brought with him a pair of boot cut jeans he wanted to turn into a straight leg pair and Rachael a T-shirt she planned to make baggier. They were going to spend the afternoon working on these alterations and breathe new life into their clothes. I made a mental list of all the clothes in my own wardrobe waiting to be altered in some way.

Barley shows us a display of clothing she has altered and what can be achieved with a nifty cotton and thread and starts the workshop by demonstrating how to unpick stitches and re-stitch from an awkward position such as through the lining of a coat. Barley opened Fabrications on Broadway market nearly 18 years ago. The shop was in a distressed state but she worked in a cooperative way to build a basement workshop and swapped skills with an architect and using recycled materials. Now known as a ‘Supercrafter’, Barley has worked in the film and TV industry costume departments for over 15 years and continued to work whilst she built her shop and school.

I learnt many new skills in a short space of time such as channeling panels (photo above) to thread through elastic to bring in a waist rather than using a dart or pleat. I know how to reinforce the inside leg of my jeans to protect them before they need patching rather than having to wait until they are unfixable. Barley encourages customers to stop and think before they buy something new and consider if it can it be bought second hand, pre-loved or vintage. Which ever term you use buying second hand is a small measure against the fast fashion market that we live in. Learning alteration skills such as these preserves clothes and textiles helping the campaign against fast fashion and saves cash.

Barley’s Top Mending Tips

  • Use safety pins when pinning alterations on the body so they don’t lose their place and don’t stick in when taking the garment off. Get a friend to help if it is your own garment.
  • Once pinned, take off the garment and measure it to make sure the alterations are balanced. E.g darts are the same distance from the side seam.
  • Tack where the pins are then take out the pins before stitching on the sewing machine. It is best not to cut off the excess fabric so the outfit can be altered again. However you might have to cut the fabric if it is too bulky.
  • Mirror  the seams so they are the same structure as the rest of the garment. e.g. pressed opened or zigzag / overlocked edge
  • Darts should follow the grain of the cloth. Iron darts towards the side seams.
  • Velvet and delicate fabrics should be steamed with a piece of fabric over the top and the iron lightly hovered over.
  • Use different sewing needles for different textiles e.g. a jersey needle.

In a short time my existing sewing skills were perfected and I came away with a few new techniques in my pocket in order to preserve my own clothes and those that I sell on my Etsy store. Keep your eye on Fabrications Facebook page for another Garment repairs and alterations workshop. If you are new to sewing, Fabrications also offer complete beginners classes.

Top photo is of Barley and one of her altered garments

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Vintage Stories: When the stars align

Louise from Shoreditch Design Rooms shares her vintage story with Olive Road.

Gliding seamlessly from studying astro physics to setting up a successful upholstery school isn’t the most obvious of career paths but Louise from the Shoreditch Design Rooms did just that. Louise lived on Gower street in central London, a pebbles throw from the beautiful university buildings of University College London (UCL) where she was studying. Twenty years later and a further few miles to the east, Louise was building a different type of school. The Shoreditch Design Rooms on Hackney Road teaches around 70 students in upholstery and soft furnishings from beginners to professional upholsterers. The college is renowned for having small classes so students can learn on a one to one basis, pick up tips from each other and learn from the commercial workshop attached to the school. 

I bumped into Louise whilst she was demonstrating her skills at Sew Amazing on Roman Road. Owner Robb helped Louise source the industrial machines she needed for the college and he continues to service the machines ‘A sewing machine is so important and I can rely on Robb to look after it really well’ Louise she tells me.  We share our excitement of transforming a much loved old piece of furniture or fabric into a brand new object when Louise tells me the most wonderful coincidence that happened to her whilst she was in the midst of building the school. ‘I was looking for something that would work as a good cutting table. The right height so students didn’t have to bend down but long and wide enough to hold a length of upholstery fabric’. She came across some benches outside a reclamation yard, discared on the street, left to fend against the elements. The benches are solid mahogany oak and from inspecting the detail, Louise could see they were obviously hand made. Each of the drawers underneath the bench are numbered as they only fit in that custom made home. Sadly Louise only had room for five benches out of the 250 available and the rest were probably damaged beyond repair from being left in the rain. There was something familiar about the benches, when Louise asked the trader it turns out he had acquired them from UCL. Not only the same university Louise attended but from the same science labs. ‘I knew they were the same as when I sit up at them I can’t get my legs underneath and I remember that from being at college. It felt like such a good omen’.

The Shoreditch Design Rooms offer AMUSF accredited courses or taster evening classes for upholstery and soft furnishings. Full details on their website

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How to buy a vintage wedding dress

‘I only came here to get ideas’ Bride-to-be Sarah confesses to me at the Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair in May. Despite this, she has found the dress she wasn’t even looking for, a 1940’s vintage wedding dress from Peacock Vintage, one of the many stalls at the fair. ‘I wasn’t going for a traditional dress. The first stall I came to I bumped into Savitri and she took me shopping’. Savitri is the founder and organiser of Clerkenwell Vintage Fairs. When Olive Road caught up with Savitri back in May, she expressed her delight in helping customers find their ideal vintage outfits. Savitri advised Sarah to be open to ideas and try on as many dresses as possible. Between them they chose a dress completely opposite to what Sarah had planned, the beautiful traditional off white, silk dress that Sarah models in the above photo. The neckline sits across the clavical with tiny silk covered buttons running down the back seam to the base of the spine. The sleeves are slightly gathered at the shoulders, creating the classic 1940’s style. The highlight of the dress is it’s dramatic long train. Sarah was excited and shocked in equal measure and when I caught up with the bride-to-be she was waiting for her friend Jenny to arrive to give her a second opinion. 

Vintage shopper Sarah at the Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair, May 2017

I know from experience how difficult it is to find a vintage wedding dress in a style that suits you and that fits. Before planning my wedding 13 years ago I had watched the 1957 film Funny Face staring Audrey Hepburn and dreamed of a three quarter length wedding dress. I am not blessed with a 1950’s sized waist and I gave up looking for a vintage dress before I had even started.  My friend Cathy suggested that I buy a vintage wedding pattern and have the dress made. I found what was looking for on an early version of Etsy, I think it was called Ruby Lane?  Luckily a friend had recently commissioned her wedding dress to be made by costume designer Nancy and she agreed to make my dress too, altering the original neck line of the pattern to suit me. I asked Nancy to include a vintage diamanté belt buckle, that I had sourced on eBay.

My wedding dress and the vintage Vogue pattern it was styled from

Cathy had more luck in finding her vintage wedding dress off the peg. Her sister Su is a TV stylist and a vintage fair veteran as she shops for vintage clothes and ideas for her work. The sisters went to Frock Me at the Chelsea Town Hall and saw a beautiful 1950’s pure silk dress on a mannequin. ‘I want that one’ Cathy exclaimed. ‘As soon as it floated over my head and Su pulled up the zip it was if it were tailor-made for me, I couldn’t believe my luck’. It wasn’t a traditional wedding dress but Cathy hadn’t planned on a traditional wedding so it worked perfectly. Read more about Cathy’s dress in this month’s Vintage Stories.

Cathy and Matt on their wedding day

Sisters Pippa and Hesta from Peacock Vintage agree with Cathy that in order to find a vintage dress for your big day you don’t have to stick to a traditional wedding dress. ‘It pays to put the time in and do your research and try dresses you wouldn’t normally wear’ says Pippa. Hesta adds that it is important to ‘buy the dress when you see it otherwise it will go’. This true of all vintage clothing and if you change your mind you can always sell it on.

Pippa and Hesta from Peacock Vintage

Savitri Coleman shared her vintage shopping tips with Olive Road on a recent blog post and adds ‘When looking for a vintage wedding dress it is important to try different shades of white to find out which one suits your skin tone. Shape is also important, different eras suit different body shapes. For example bride-to-be Sarah was lost in a 1960’s box shaped dress yet the 1940’s dress fit her like a glove, it was like it was made for her, it was unique and the long train and sleeves added drama’. I caught up with bride-to-be Sarah a few hours later, she had bought the dress for her Australian wedding to Ian and was off to celebrate with her friend.

Buying a vintage wedding dress will ensure that you wear something completely unique for your special day. Not everyone will be as lucky as Sarah and Cathy in finding their dress so quickly but the same can be said when buying a new wedding dress. Start shopping early. Ask friends, write a post on social media requesting recommendations for dress makers who can make the necessary alterations for you, or in my case, copy a dress to fit and suit you perfectly. Most off all, have fun in searching, take a friend and treat yourself to a glass of bubbly when you find the dress of your dreams. 

Find more vintage wedding dress tips on my Pinterest board. The next Clerkenwell Vintage Fashion Fair is on the 17th September 2017 at the Yard in Shoreditch. Olive Road’s next fair is at Pop-Up Vintage fair on 1st October, St Stephen’s in Hampstead. 


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Fantastic Evening at Wilton’s Music Hall with Pop Up Vintage London

Thanks to everyone who came along to this summer’s Pop Up Vintage Fair at the historical Wilton’s Music Hall in East London and helped make it one of the best vintage fairs yet! The rain was pouring down as I drove along narrow Cable Street with my tiny car (Bella) keeping me and my boxes of vintage clothing dry.  Goosebumps crept over my skin as I entered the dusty pink doors of the old music hall balancing a clothing rail and my dressmakers dummy. The walls of the World’s oldest surviving music hall is full of ghosts that seem to come alive as traders bump into each other in the bricked hallways and dusty stairs, arms piled high with vintage dresses, jackets, scarves and even Japanese Kimonos. My stall was on the balcony this year, a different position to the past two years I have traded at Wilton’s and it was the perfect place to survey the scene. Traders expertly transforming blank spaces into their vintage pop up shops, My Favourite Things with curlers in their hair and their voices filling the domed ceiling as they performed their sound check. The 300 year old music hall was starting to come alive and its spirits fill the atmosphere with past escapades.

From the moment the doors opened, the crowds poured in. True vintage fans were the early birds, parading around the fair in their finest vintage clothes and hairstyles, foraging for more inspiration. The queue outside started to snake around the corner as crowds turned up for the vintage shopping a cocktail in the bar and to experience the historical atmosphere of the now famous East End Music Hall.

As the vintage fans poured into the hall, My Favourite Things sang in harmony old tunes such as ‘Hit The Road Jack’ and ‘Summertime’, tunes that I can imagine were sung here before WWII, after which the hall became a missionary church. The venue was sensitively restored in 2015 to make the building safe, winning two RIBA awards for the project. The walls haven’t been covered up with new smooth plaster but have been left peeling away in soft dusky colours, conserving the layers of history in it’s walls. If you haven’t had the chance to view the grade 2 listed music hall yet, there are a wide range of events to chose from or join a guided tour of the building on a Monday evening.

Thanks to Pop Up Vintage London (top photo belongs to them) for working tirelessly to create such a popular and well organised event. Olive Road’s next stall is with Pop Up Vintage at another historic venue, St Stephen’s Church in Hampstead on the 1st October.  See you there!

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Vintage Stories: India via New York

I caught up with Karen from Vintage Love Affair at Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair earlier this year. This turquoise jewelled coloured dress caught my eye and I asked her where she bought it. She told me that around 13 years ago she went on her first trip to New York and was given $100 to spend. She was in downtown Manhattan and her eye caught the striking colour of the dress hanging in a shop window. She asked the shop assistant how much it was and it came to the same amount of dollars burning a hole in her pocket. It is 100% silk and made in India and yet found in New York. Karen decided to let it go and is now selling it on to make room for more of her vintage clothes in her wardrobe. 

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Worst Civilian Disaster of World War II took place 74 years ago today

Bethnal Green Tube Disaster 1943

74 years ago today the worst civilian disaster of World War II occurred in East London and yet very few people know about it. Bethnal Green Tube station was regularly used as an air raid shelter during the Blitz of WWII.  On the 3rd March  around 2000 people headed to the disused tube station in anticipation of an air raid. Berlin had been heavily bombed the night before and people were worried about a retaliation from the Nazi bombers.  As they were heading down the tube station entrance anti aircraft rocket guns were being tested in near by Victoria Park.  These were incredibly loud and a new sound that the locals hadn’t heard before. The air raid sounded and resulted in a lot of people moving towards the small entrance all at once.  There was only one small entrance in those days, not the 3 there are now and it was very dark due to the black out requirements of the time.  A mother carrying her baby slipped at the bottom step and the knock-on effect caused 300 people to be crushed in the tiny stairwell.  173 people lost their lives and 90 were injured including children and babies.  There were no attacks from enemy fighters that evening and due to the secrecy act during the war, the event wasn’t brought to the nation’s attention until many years after the war. There still hasn’t been an apology from the Government, who blame the East End People for panicking.

I use Bethnal Green tube station regularly and have often read the small plaque commemorating 173 lives lost in the disaster on the wall by the steps.  I had only heard bits and pieces about the disaster but a few years ago I started to see a memorial being built and the charity collecting money at the station.  Then late last year, I attended the Write Idea Festival in Whitechapel.  I chose the author Kate Thompson’s book reading as her novel, Secrets of the Singer Girls, is about women who worked in the rag trade for the war effort during WWII.  Kate’s novel is fiction but she had undertaken many hours of research from over 30 women who worked as sewing machinists during WWII.  Kate said she was compelled to include the event of the 3rd March at Bethnal Green Tube Station in her novel as so many of the women she spoke to were visibly still moved by this disaster all these years later including Henrietta Keeper, who came along to talk with Kate.  As Kate was researching the archives for details of the event, she came across the list of names of people who had sadly lost their lives and found her own name there.  She went on to research the Kate Thompson from 1943 and found her to be a strong, vibrant woman and consequently she has sponsored a conical on the memorial in her honour.  The Stairway to Heaven Trust joined the Write Idea Festival and explained more about the fund raising the charity had been doing to raise the nearly £500k required to build a memorial for the 173 people who died in the disaster.

Early in December 2015, I was coming to the end of the Secrets of the Singer Girls.  I was listening to the novel as an audio book as it enables me to sew at the same time as reading.  I was on the number 8 bus passing Bethnal Green tube station just as Kate’s characters are caught up in the Bethnal Green tube disaster.  The description of what happened that evening was no longer fiction and the way Kate described what happened that night was harrowing and felt very real.  It bought me to tears as I looked over at the part built memorial.  I couldn’t believe that the government have never taken responsibility for what happened that night and if it wasn’t for the Stairway to Heaven charity, the victims would be forgotten.  At that time, I was busy making Christmas decorations of the number 8 bus to sell at a local fair and it felt fitting to donate the money to the Stairway to Heaven charity. I’m very proud to say that Olive Road has sponsored one of the conicals, which will be fitted within the teak stairway and will project light onto the pavement below and each one has been dedicated to the 173 victims.  I’ve sponsored Olive Thorpe’s conical not just because it is close in name to my company but also because it is a name that runs through many generations of my family.  Olive Thorpe was 36 years old when she died at the disaster. She lived in Kerbela Street, just off Brick Lane and died along with two of her daughters, Barbara (age 2) and Marie (age 11).  I would like to find out more about Olive, Barbara and Marie so if anyone has any information, please get in touch.

I’ll be joining the Stairway to heaven team on Sunday 6th March 2016 at St John’s Church, Bethnal Green at 2pm in memory of the 173 people who died.  If you would like to donate online, please head to the charity’s website and click on the ‘donate’ button.  The charity have done a great job in raising nearly half a million pounds but still have a way to go in order to finish the memorial. There are a few concials left to sponsor, if you would like to sponsor one, please email

Reading list

Stairway to Heaven Full Story

East London Advertiser: Vindicated East Enders Blamed for Britain’s Worst Wartime Civilian Disaster

East London Advertiser: Last Hurdle for Cash to Complete Bethnal Green’s 1943 Air Raid Memorial

East London Advertiser: Dr Joan Martin 99 Recalls Horror of 1943 Bethnal Green Air Raid Shelter Disaster

Bethnal Green Memorial Project

East London History Society: Published in 1992 recounts a vivid description of the disaster and the obitary of a honorable doctor who helped the survivors. (download the pdf version from 1992)

East London Life: Kate Thompson wrote a couple of articles for the local paper to give a background on her book research and also the other Kate Thompson who sadly lost her life in the disaster.

The Express: Kate Thompson describes the real life stories of the women her novel is based on

The Dailly Mail: Kate Thompson describes in more depth the stories of the women who lived and worked during the Blitz including a video of a Tube Station shelter.

Tales by East Enders: a published book following a charity project for the Sundial Centre in Hackney



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A 90’s Classic

Continuing with our theme about vintage clothing with a story I spotted this amazing pink coat on Retro Bambi’s stall at the recent Judy’s Affordable Vintage Fair in Bethnal Green, London. It belongs to stall owner Jo and she has reluctantly put it up for sale. She bought this Paul Smith reversible coat on a whim 20 odd years ago and said ‘I don’t care if I sell it because I love it’. She loves it being so pink and fluffy and I can see why she doesn’t want to part with this magnificent coat. You can find Jo, Drew and their fantastic selection of vintage clothing at Peckham Salvage Yard on the 4th March but just don’t expect to see this coat for sale as I suspect it is hanging back in Jo’s wardrobe!