Posted by: Postordinandy | August 11, 2011

Community in action

Just a quick post about the Walthamstow Respite Centre that we’ve had up and running over the past few nights.

Our local MP, Stella Creasy, contacted me on Monday evening to see if there was something we could do to help the police and other emergency services while they pulled so many long shifts in sometimes dangerous circumstances. We’d discovered that there are no canteen facilities in any of the Police Stations in Waltham Forest, so thought about offering officers a cuppa and a place to sit for 5 minutes.

Our local Church Hall was free from the usual bookings, so in we went. Stella and I tweeted a few people and put the idea out there – and the thing exploded.

I arrived at 1.30 on Tues afternoon to start setting up. By 2pm I had about 6 people with me, loads of tea bags and a kettle on the go. 15 police officers arrived, on spec, so I tweeted that we could do with some more milk. Someone arrived with cake – which disappeared as soon as it arrived. By 4pm we had around 40 litres of milk, 3 carrier bags of biscuits and a ton or so of cake. I tweeted for a HTC phone charger and got 6 within 5 minutes – I dare not ask for things unless we REALLY need them now!

By 5pm we were cooking jacket potatoes (with cheese and beans, of course), and we’d had to put out another table for the goodies.

On Tuesday night I’d say about 40-50 volunteers popped in, some stayed the duration, others left after leaving contact details “in case numbers got low” – we never got close to needing them!

We served over 40 officers with tea, chatted to those who wanted it, left those too tired to relax for a little bit. After chatting to the Borough Commander we decided we’d run it at least for a few more days.

On Wednesday we had more food arriving every 20 mins or so (home-made biscuits & cake, pasta salad, fishcakes, fruit, a packet of Werthers Originals…) and had a menu on the wall that included toasted sandwiches, paninis and chilli. Again had more people than could actually help – but the police and paramedics who arrived loved the sign of so many of the community standing with them. Some of the ladies are holding out for firemen – the offer is there! I have no idea how many we served, but it was a lot of tired people.

This is about community building. No one is supporting the Police over any concerns they may have, no one is suggesting that everyone has got it right. But we are doing something simple that we can do. Volunteers have become friends and family, Police and civilians have laughed with each other, Politicians have mucked in with tea making and not rhetoric.

We don’t think things like this will fix the wider societal problems, but hey – this is England – a cup of tea solves most problems, no?

Go here and here for audio & visual from the Waltamstow Respite Centre – serving the community since, erm, Tues.

(Leave a comment if you want to get involved, or contact me on Twitter – @postordinandy)



  1. […] Echoing community movements across the country, see some examples here […]

  2. I’m from Walthamstow but in Portugal for a holiday and due back at the week end. I was sad to read about the riots. Let me know if your continuing next week? Love to get involved. Why close it now?

  3. Walthamstow is full of wonderful people as our 10 years there taught us. Worth noting that young people amongst the volunteers & showing a different side of yp in our society

  4. […] You can read Andy’s blog on it here. […]

  5. I may be on the other side of the pond but I say this is exactly what is needed. More of this every day and to everyone that needs it. I’ve found that goodwill is contagious and can spread if people work at it.

  6. Even though I don’t actually live in Walthamstow, am still really proud of this. My 8 year old daughter, having seen some of the news, was very distressed by what was happening and as it was so out of my power to make her feel safe, I decided that showing her how to be part of the solution was the way forward so we came down to donate tea, coffee and biscuits and I was one of the people who left contact details in case of need.

  7. Hi Sarah, thanks for that. I remember you popping in – thank you (and of course your daughter!) for the donations & I’m glad we were able to in some way help her see some of the good that can come from difficult times such as these.

  8. Thank you for your kind words – it’s actually been lots of fun!

  9. Thanks Paul – sorry we didn’t get to see you as you were passing through 🙂

  10. Thanks Ann. We are likely to be running until Tuesday evening – 5pm to 10pm (although on Sat & Sun we are probably opening from 3.30pm. There is an online rota here: although since so many people have signed up to help it looks a little messy now! If you go there, scroll down to the end (where you’ll see a space to write your own name) – if you scroll left to right you should see which slots have fewest people. Any help you can offer – even an hour – would be useful, and/or if you are on twitter follow both @StMarysRespite and @postordinandy for updates about what provisions, etc might be needed.
    Thanks again!

  11. […] This post was Twitted by loukrzan […]

  12. Hi! My partner is one of the police officers you have been looking after for the last few days. He came home today for an hour; it’s the first time I’ve seen him since Monday. Thank you all so much for feeding him, giving him tea and keeping him sane. Hopefully I’ll be able to have him back soon, but in the meantime, I can’t thank you enough for what you’re doing for him & for all his colleagues. It’s hard to be one of the ones waiting at home at times like this, but seeing what you’re doing really does help. Thank you so so much!

  13. Sometimes all people need is to just tell someone what’s bothering them. We might not be able to help, but listening makes people feel valued. The police are people too and I’m certain they appreciated the tea and sympathy, even if it didn’t fix things.
    Keep up the good work!

  14. […] Read postordinandy on how the centre started… Read what another helper ‘normalinlondon’ has written… See pictures by Martin and Kate including some more of the comment cards from our ‘clients’. […]

  15. Hi Smokey. Sorry it’s taken so long to reply. We were glad to be able to offer some small help at the time of stress for your partner and his colleagues. One of my friends is a detective in Hackney, and he warned me to not be surprised if some of the officers were a little cynical about the help we offered (being, as they are, so used to interacting with the more negative sides of people); but I have to say all those we spoke to seemed genuinely touched by the simple acts of kindness and hospitality that so many ordinary people were lining up to offer and express.
    I hope he has managed to catch up on his sleep, and that you are able to enjoy each others’ company again!


  16. I’m a police officer in Surrey. I was pointed in the direction of your [little?!] operation on the Tuesday after the riots (I think). I and all my colleagues felt so welcome and were totally overwhelmed by all the volunteers generosity. You are all a real credit to Walthamstow, and London! Thank you!

  17. thank you, it was our pleasure!

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