Gazette letters: Spring, Migrant Centre and real ale

A lazy fox in Newington Green. Picture: WILL McCALLUM

A lazy fox in Newington Green. Picture: WILL McCALLUM - Credit: Archant

There are few uglier trees during winter than the willow (I think of the common native trees, only the elder comes close), writes Will McCallum, Newington Green.

Those long, drooping, yellow-green branchlets do not suit the leafless look. It was a pleasure, then, to see the willows along New River Path covered in small green buds as spring builds momentum across the borough.

The pace of change at this time of year is astonishing. In the week since I noticed the willow branchlets had begun to turn green with buds, the leaves have already grown to more than an inch long. Last Sunday I got drenched in a hailstorm cycling to Angel, but just a few days later outside my office I was struck by the smell of some newly-blossoming yellow acacia.

The animals seem a little livelier too; running through Clapton Square I removed my headphones to eavesdrop on the raging argument between a pair of mistle thrushes. Just a few minutes later in St John’s churchyard I looked up to see a furious row between a squirrel and a crow.

Or rather, I should say, some animals seem livelier. The fox that spends its evenings digging up my roses and making rude noises beneath my window seems to be taking the better weather as nothing more than a chance to laze brazenly in the sunshine in full view of my living room.

I was delighted to see one of my charities, Hackney Migrant Centre, mentioned in the letter from the Hackney Borough Deans Group last week, writes Cllr Rosemary Sales, speaker of Hackney.

Like them, I am proud of the work that goes on in Hackney – by voluntary groups, faith groups and individuals as well as the council – to welcome and support refugees and migrants in the borough.

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Hackney Migrant Centre (HMC) is a small organisation, staffed mainly by volunteers, that works tirelessly to help people with insecure immigration status. I have spoken to many visitors who have told me HMC was the first place they felt really welcome in this country.

The advice received there has allowed many to gain the security they need to be able to build their lives here.

One of the most enjoyable tasks during my time as speaker has been presiding at citizenship ceremonies where we welcome people who have come from across the world and gained the right to become British citizens. Many have faced a great deal of hardship and stress while waiting for a response to their applications.

It has been a special pleasure to welcome to citizenship some of the people I met while they were seeking advice at HMC.

I have had great support from fellow councillors and residents in my fundraising for HMC and my other charity, North London Action for the Homeless – another small Hackney organisation.

The mayor, Phil Glanville, will be running the Hackney Half Marathon on April 30 with a team of councillors, town hall staff and residents, as well as the Queen’s representative in Hackney.

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We are also organising a concert on May 6 at St John of Jerusalem Church: Hackney in Harmony.

It will have a range of music – classical, folk and rock – including Woven Gold, a choir of refugees from the Helen Bamber Centre.

Five Points of Hackney Downs won best golden ale in London at the very first judging of London beers, writes Christine Cryne, the organiser of the London Drinker Festival.

We chose to run the competition to showcase the fantastic beers we now have in London. We have been delighted in the growth of the number of milds being brewed in London. It definitely isn’t an old man’s drink. It might be low in alcohol but it has lots of flavour.

The number of breweries that produce a golden ale is tens of times bigger than those producing milds, thus Five Points’ win with their pale was a harder fight!

The beers were chosen by CAMRA members throughout London from hundreds that are on offer. To make this shortlist was a real accolade. The beers varied from traditional bitters and porters to American pale ales and beers made with rye; it really is a great range.