Local News

Spotlight on St Luke’s Community Centre

Each month, we catch up one of the fantastic businesses or organisations that make the Old Street District the vibrant and exciting place that we all know and love. This month, we’re chatting to Keren Wiltshire, Director of Services at St Luke’s Community Centre.

Hi Keren, thanks for chatting with us! Can you tell us a little about what you do at St Luke’s?

I lead on the development, fundraising and delivery of community services, projects and events carried out in St Luke’s Community Centre and the neighbourhood with a focus on meeting local needs and finding new ways to engage with local people.

So what exactly does St Luke’s do?

Our charitable aim is to improve the conditions of life for the people living in our area of benefit. We know that providing a Community Centre and services in the area helps break down barriers and contributes towards our area being welcoming, safe, healthy, and alive with activity

Who comes to St Luke’s?

We’re fortunate to be able to provide a wide range of services and support, which has created a diverse range of people that engage with us throughout the local community. Whether people live here, learn here, work here, play here or are simply visiting the area, St Luke’s welcomes everybody. In 2019 we welcomed almost 70,000 visits to the Community Centre – from new-born babies to octogenarians!

How did it all start?

St Luke’s Parochial Trust is an amalgamation of smaller trusts, the earliest of which date back to the sixteenth century. Many years ago, the area of St Luke’s was densely populated with extremely high levels of disease and poverty. In those days people often left legacies in their wills to the poor of the parish. For example, gifts of money or property were bequeathed to provide income to give bread, clothing or coals to widows, school children and orphans, or operate almshouses. Over the centuries, these gifts were accumulated into large parish (or parochial) trusts. Some of these ancient charities exist to this day, and St Luke’s is one. St Luke’s Community Centre was officially opened by HRH Queen Elizabeth II in 1982.

How do you think the pandemic (and the consequent lockdown) has affected the community you serve?

The pandemic and consequent lockdowns have affected the community in many ways – both good and bad. It’s sad to see how lonely many older residents have become and how fearful they are about the future, families have been seriously impacted economically, children and young people struggling without their schools or friends and people looking for work are frustrated by the lack of opportunities.

However, the one good thing to come from the pandemic is the true feeling of community as a result of the generosity and kindness of local people. We have been consistently overwhelmed with offers of help from residents who donate their time as volunteers and donate food, nappies and money to the Food Hub. Our Christmas Appeal resulted in almost 400 presents being donated to local children and pensioners!

How did you operate prior to the pandemic, and what has had to change as a result of the current situation?

Prior to the pandemic, St Luke’s delivered an extensive programme of community support including care for older people, a daily lunch club, children’s after school and holiday activities, employment support, volunteer opportunities, a cookery school, an online centre, community classes and public events, gardening and food growing, health and wellbeing activities, advice services and business enterprise opportunities.

Since the lockdown started in March 2020 we have had to stop delivering lots of our services, furloughed many of our staff and prioritised our limited support to residents most in need. In response to local needs, our small team immediately set up a Food Hub which has already distributed 70 tonnes of donated goods to those living in food poverty, we developed a programme of wellbeing/befriending phone service offering friendship to those who are isolated or anxious, we have adapted our Job Club to an online service ensuring job seekers are still supported in their search for employment and we have delivered lunches to the homes of shielding pensioners every day – including Christmas Day!

Have there been any new ways of working that you think will stay in place in future?

Like many organisations, we have become more creative in the way we work and, despite keeping the Community Centre open to deliver essential services, many staff have benefitted from the flexibility of being able to work from home. Remote working is likely to stay in place in future but I know our team can’t wait to all be together again and think our first ‘in-person’ staff meeting is likely to take some time!

How can a local resident or employee contribute to the amazing work that St Luke’s does?

There are so many ways to get involved at St Luke’s!

Local residents can sign up to become volunteers supporting our huge programme of community activities such as befriending older residents, distributing donated food or helping to organise our public events. Volunteering is such a great way to gain skills, make new friends, feel part of your community and, importantly, have fun.

Businesses can also register as partners with our Business Engagement Team and contribute to our community provision. Our large team of corporate volunteers help deliver key services such as job club and business enterprise, they get involved in our popular ‘team challenge’ days, offer pro-bono help and support all our fundraising efforts.

How has OSDP worked with you?

We’ve loved working with the OSDP and have benefitted hugely from the platform that the OSDP has given us to showcase the work we do in supporting our community to the business community. Thanks to the exposure that the OSDP has given us, the local business community now has the opportunity to know what goes on at the centre and how their business and stakeholders can get involved.

How would you describe the Old Street community?

The Old Street community is a unique combination of old and new housing estates that are tucked behind large and small businesses bordering Hackney and the City of London. There is a strong sense of community that is supported and enhanced by the diverse community groups, services and businesses.

Please describe Old Street and the surrounding area in 3 words.

Changing, urban, and busy.

If you would like to get involved with St Luke’s Community Centre, please contact Colleen Ettridge via email cettridge@slpt.org.uk

Spotlight on Tapas Brindisa

Each month, we catch up one of the fantastic businesses that make the Old Street District the vibrant and exciting place that we all know and love.

This month, we’re chatting to Kelly Richardson, Food Operations Director at Tapas Brindisa, a modern, Spanish tapas restaurant on Curtain Road.

Hi Kelly! Thanks for taking the time to chat with us. Could you tell us a little about yourself and how you got involved with Tapas Brindisa?
From a young age I loved to cook, my parents would drive for an hour to take my sister and I for a good lunch or to buy produce they had heard of / were keen to try. I worked in the best possible restaurants I could, sometimes for free, to learn my craft.

Whilst my passion was cooking, ingredients were the most important thing – something that was quite often lost in the 90s and early 00s when the focus was all on the plate. When I met Monika (the founder of Brindisa), I knew she was a kindred spirit, and as it happens, both of us had lived and worked in Spain. Joining up and working for Monika at Brindisa seemed a natural path.

How would you describe Tapas Brindisa to someone who hasn’t visited before?
A tapas bar where you can escape back to your favourite Spanish memories

What’s the most popular thing on your menu?
Our classics where we can showcase the ingredients we have imported from special producers for decades, plates like our hand-carved Bellota Ham.

Can you tell us a little bit about your team and the atmosphere in the restaurant?
We take great pleasure in saying that the majority of our team have been with us a long time and whilst these times are challenging, we will continue to grow stronger together. The atmosphere is loud and fun with laughter and chatting with a faint din of Spanish music underneath.

What do you love about the area? How would you recommend someone spends a day in Shoreditch/the Old Street area?
There’s a pervading sense of creativity and vibrancy in Shoreditch which is infectious – it’s certainly becoming more mainstream as the years go on but it’s youthful crowd and the abundance of independent shops, bars, cultural hubs ensures it stays unique and interesting whilst the nightlife means its always got a draw. I would recommend just wandering the streets – at every corner there’s street art to stumble across, vintage shops to browse and street food to treat yourself to.

The pandemic has undoubtedly had a huge impact on businesses in our area. How did you navigate it? How does the way you operate now differ to how you operated before the pandemic?
We had to look at being more efficient, arguably also less complacent, but we have stuck to our values of product and team – it’s a winning combination.

What advice would you give to businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, during a crisis like this one?
Stick to what you believe in and do not try to please everyone or spread yourself too thin. If you’re passionate, it comes across and is contagious on those around you. Stay humble!

Have you felt supported by the Old Street District community? How else could the local community support you?
The area has been great. I think shopping local wherever you live is key, business and the community is symbiotic.

Describe Tapas Brindisa in three words – Spanish or English!
Quality, Spanish, fun.

Spotlight on Pure Sport Medicine

We’re delighted to have recently launched our Lunchtime Wellbeing Series earlier this month, kicking off our programme of events with an Online Yoga Class.

Over the coming months, we’re inviting you to a series of virtual sessions designed to help you look after your mind and body, hosted by world-class sport and exercise medicine specialists, Pure Sports Medicine.

From interactive Pilates and Yoga sessions to a mental health webinar, we’ve put together a calendar of events that will get you moving and thinking during your lunch break.

We caught up with Simon Devane, Chief Executive of Pure Sports Medicine, to find out more about the wellbeing sessions and the team behind them.

Great to meet you, Simon! Could you tell us a little about the vision and ethos of Pure Sports Medicine? 

Pure Sports Medicine (PSM) was established by taking the healthcare model that worked in elite and professional sport and integrating this with global best practice from other countries, to deliver a fully comprehensive and patient-focused service. We offer support in all aspects of Sport, Exercise and Musculoskeletal (MSK) Medicine here in the UK – in lay persons terms, we are a one stop shop for all MSK conditions up to, but not including, surgery – we refer on to our trusted partners for that.

How did you operate prior to the pandemic, and what has had to change as a result of the current situation?

Prior to the pandemic we operated 7 clinics across London, supporting patients and clients with a face-to-face service delivery. The pandemic and change in working patterns has meant that while the majority of appointments are still being delivered in clinic across our 7 sites, there are a number of consultations and classes delivered via video link. The willingness of consumers to access healthcare services remotely means we are no longer geographically bound by our physical clinic locations.

Have there been any new ways of working that you think will stay in place in future? 

‘Telemedicine’: while the delivery of healthcare services via telephone and video has been around for a while, the scale with which it has been adopted and accepted by both consumers and clinicians has meant we have seen a significant change in the sector, fast forwarding a relatively slow organic change by 3-5 years.

How do you think the pandemic (and the consequent lockdown) has affected people’s mental health and wellbeing? 

I think we are only beginning to appreciate the impact on people’s mental health and wellbeing. Personally I am concerned at the potential scale of the problem – we all need to take an active role in supporting one another, alongside businesses playing their part and ensuring employees are well supported and know where to go for help and support.

What are your top tips for staying healthy and happy at home? 

Have a routine, make sure it’s not all work and you make time to enjoy yourself. Get outside and integrate some level of activity into your day or week.   

What would you say to someone who is finding it difficult to stay motivated due to the current climate?

 Looking after yourself both mentally and physically is vital. Stay active, eat well and do everything else in moderation – find things that make you happy or you enjoy doing and make sure these are integrated into your day. Many people I have spoken to have found motivation has ebbed and flowed during this pandemic, I think understanding this is completely normal and talking about it with someone you trust can help.

Are you working from home yourself? What does your average day look like?

I am travelling into our head office and working from home. My average day remains consistent as I like and need my days to be structured, I get up at 6am regardless of whether I am WFH or going into the office, I use the early mornings to spend time with my three children over breakfast before they depart for school and start my day between 08:00-08:30.

What can participants expect from our Lunchtime Wellbeing Series with you? 

Participants should expect to be engaged, enlightened, and empowered. Education is a key part of helping individuals deal with any kind of health or wellbeing problem – understanding the issue helps you feel in control of things usually because you understand what you can do to help yourself.

These sessions will provide information in lots of different ways – some of it through lectures and information, some through teaching different exercises that can help prevent and manage problems and some by providing life and work hacks that you can implement for yourself. People often put up with pain and problems either because they don’t know who to see for help and advice or they don’t think there is anything that can be done. Neither is usually true. At the end of this series, participants should feel healthier and happier.


On Friday 11 September the Government announced that it plans to stop offering tax free shopping to all international visitors after 31 December 2020. This will mean losing a £3.5 billion sector and undermining Britain’s global appeal and competitiveness. We know from talking to our business community that this is yet another blow, at a time when many are still struggling due to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. The decision is not just something that will impact retailers, it will have a ripple effect across many sectors including hospitality and culture. Similarly, it is not only a London problem – the reality is that the tax free incentive does encourage visitors to the UK and this gives people a clear reason to go elsewhere. We are urging the Government to rethink its decision.

We urgently need your help to express the devastating impact this decision will have on a wide range of sectors across the whole of the UK.

Please see more information below about what action can be taken over the next few weeks.

  1. Write directly to the Chancellor: Rt Hon Rishi Sunak MP, Chancellor of the Exchequer, 1 Horse Guards Road, London, SW1A 2HQ / email: public.enquiries@hmtreasury.gov.uk
  1. Contact your local MP – you can find your MP and contact details here https://members.parliament.uk/FindYourMP

Restaurant Feature – Franze & Evans

Franze & Evans are a small family run cafe in Shoreditch perfect for breakfast.

They specialise in a variety of fresh homemade modern brunch and breakfast foods, unique salads and delicious signature cakes.

How would you describe Franze and Evans to someone who hasn’t visited before?

Franze and Evans is a family run business that started in the heart of Shoreditch back in 2008. We specialise in delicious Italian food infused with classic British cooking. We are best known for our flavoursome breakfast and brunch menu, our wholesome salads and our delicious cakes. Our food is packed full of flavour, creativity, and soul – and we are so pleased to be expanding our brand and opening new cafes across London. 

What’s the most popular thing on your menu?

This is a difficult question. For cooked offer our most popular is the brunch with different combinations of English staples and Italian influences. The most popular item from our collection of cakes is our infamous Lemon & Courgette cake. Its light, its fluffy, and it has a solid reputation for becoming an instant favourite!

Can you tell us a little bit about your team and the atmosphere in the cafe?

Our team are a mixture of friends, family, and fresh faces from around the globe. We have a strong Italian influence within the team, so expect lots of passion and laughter when you come to visit! We like to keep the atmosphere fun and authentic – a friendly place to enjoy good food and have a good laugh. 

Why Shoreditch?

Nico, who founded the company lived in the area from the mid-1990s. At that time there was no place to go to for good coffee or good wholesome food in the area. He decided to create an environment that would provide good healthy food for the residents and business community.

The pandemic has undoubtedly had a huge impact on businesses in our area. How did you navigate it?

The pandemic is unprecedented and has had a big effect on us along with the majority of small businesses during this time. We are responding in an effective and flexible way looking at how we can adopt our business model to operating in the new environment. This has been made somewhat easier by our loyal customers upon reopening, it was good to see familiar faces. With their help we are back fighting and are feeling very positive for the future. 

How does the way you operate now differ to how you operated before the pandemic?

One way we have needed to adapt is adopting the current guidelines on social distancing., We have less space inside the cafe due to the regulations. However, we feel that our customers are still getting the full Franze & Evans experience and are working hard to keep the vibe upbeat whilst maintaining a safe environment for all whilst they are spending their time with us. 

What advice would you give to businesses, particularly in the hospitality sector, during a crisis like this one?

Stay positive! Business can be unpredictable at the best of times, but it’s really all about how you deal with the issues that counts. A positive attitude and hard work will get us all through this current crisis together! 

Have you felt supported by the Old Street District community?

Yes, we have since we re-opened in July. As mentioned above, we are seeing many familiar faces return.

How else could the local community support you?

The local community could support us by continuing to come in and enjoy our delicious food! Also, the community have been great in their understanding of the increased pressures that the hospitality industry is currently facing.

What does the future hold for Franze and Evans?

The future is looking very bright for Franze & Evans at the moment. We are lucky to be opening two new branches within Workspace buildings in east London, so are very excited to expand and keep on doing what we do best! 

Restaurant Feature – Atis

Atis is a new start up restaurant in the Old Street District Partnership. They are located in The Atlas Building at 145 City Road. The restaurant offers healthy, nutritious salads and warm bowls with a mission to make plant-based nutrition the norm.

Tell me a little bit about Atis and how you got started?

We felt there was space in London for a new, fast-casual concept that served healthy, nutritious food with the mission of making plant-powered food the norm. We are keen to encourage people to see food as more than just fuel and to depart from the notion that fast-casuals need to be convenience-led. For us, the design of the space, the development of the brand and the customer experience is as important as creating a delicious, thoughtful menu.

We developed the early stages of the concept whilst living out in America which was a great source of inspiration and it is also where we fortunately met our first hire Connor, who heads the operations. Things moved quickly from that point – we returned to London, sought investment, found a site and started the hiring process. We are also very lucky to have Phil’s brother Xan on the team, who joined us last summer and together the four of us opened up atis for its first day of trading in October 2019.

What does your average day look like?

I think most people who own a restaurant would agree that no one day is ever the same. This is what makes it a very challenging business to be in but is part of its allure. For example, a day last week included: designing and ordering bespoke branded masks, helping the store out with lunch, meeting the core team to discuss ideas for the Autumn + Winter menu, heading off in the afternoon to check out a new site (incoming!), creating social content for the week ahead and working with the team to improve our Click + Collect ordering system. Pretty varied!

Can you tell us a little bit about your team and the atmosphere created when people walk into Atis?

We have an incredible team – it is a huge asset. They are resilient, energetic, hard-working and engaged. I think what sets them apart is that they take a lot of pride in their work. There are a few disagreements on the eclectic music choices and the time of day it’s played – techno at 8am has been banned – but other than that, everyone gets along incredibly well. There is a lot of laughter and a lot of vibrant energy – I think you can feel that as soon as you walk in.

Did the current COVID19 pandemic affect this atmosphere?

At the start of lockdown, we decided to reduce our hours and our offering but to stay open. However, the atmosphere was drastically different as we took the difficult decision to furlough our staff. Old St was also a ghost town – I think there was one day where we didn’t see one car drive past our window – so the buzz of the area disappeared over night. It was quite eery actually. Fortunately for us, the sales started climbing week on week and so we were able to start bringing back our staff, which was of course a great relief.

How have you been affected by the current pandemic?

It has been an extremely challenging time – with all the surrounding offices working from home we lost the majority of our customers. However, we adapted to a delivery model and this has had its benefits: namely that we have opened ourselves up to a new (residential) customer base. Another positive outcome is that we were able to focus our attention on streamlining our processes, which has been invaluable.

Now that you have reopened, have things returned to normality?

I wouldn’t say that things are back to normal – it is hard to know what normal is these days. Old Street is much busier than it was a few weeks ago and we are slowly picking up on store sales which is encouraging. But it is hard to know if the surrounding offices will return to their historic capacity.  Hopefully it is a matter of when and not if – I think people are starting to realise how important the office is for creating culture, encouraging creativity and (perhaps counterintuitively!) establishing a work-life balance. I am sure that we’ll see some flexibility in working hours moving forward but I don’t think we will see the office life completely disappearing. I hope we see store sales continue to climb – that is our barometer of normality!

What advice would you give to start ups who have faced a crisis?

You need to be reactive. The best advice would be to focus on the core of your business and to do it really well. For us, this meant reducing our hours, reducing our offering and putting all our efforts into creating great quality food and a memorable customer experience.

What can the Old Street community do to continue supporting you?

We would just ask for the community to spread the word about who we are and that we are open. Nothing lifts our spirits more than seeing friendly faces returning, so please come and say hi!

If you could describe the last year of operating in one sentence, what would it be?

Like a theme park adventure – thrilling, terrifying, stressful, varied, joyful, intense but ultimately, very rewarding!

Eat Out to Help Out Around Old Street!

This handy tool from gov.uk shows you which restaurants are taking part in the #EatOutToHelpOut scheme. Check out which eateries in the Old Street area are involved:


Enjoy London’s best eateries for less, all while supporting our friends in the hospitality industry!

If you’re a local business taking part in the scheme, make sure to let us know. We’d love to publicise your offers across our social media channels.  

Congestion charge changes announced by TFL

TFL have announced temporary changes to the central London Congestion Charge. Despite the very large number of people working from home and the re-introduction of charging schemes suspended at the start of lockdown, car traffic in central London is increasing again. We can’t risk gridlock from a car-led recovery. Clearer roads will allow us to restart London’s economy, keep essential freight and buses running more smoothly, and minimise journey times for essential travel.

To do this we need you to help us let residents, businesses and other stakeholders know about the following changes to the Congestion Charge. We are extending its hours and days of operation and making some changes to exemptions:

  • The daily charge will increase from £11.50 to £15 per day (£17.50 for those paying during the three days after the day of travel).
  • We are extending charging hours to 07:00 to 22:00 from the current hours of 07:00 to 18:00, to reflect peak traffic hours during the epidemic. We will also operate the scheme seven days a week and all year around except Christmas Day.
  • We will remove Auto Pay and Fleet Auto Pay £1 daily discount.
  • The residents’ discount scheme will close to new applications from 1 August. In response to issues raised by stakeholders and the public, applications received up to and including 31 July will be accepted. Existing discount holders will continue to receive the discount for their currently registered vehicle and any replacements.
  • We are expanding the NHS patient reimbursement scheme and creating new reimbursement arrangements for local authorities and charities providing services in response to the pandemic.

Our projections show that, if left unchecked, car traffic in central London could double as the Government eases lockdown restrictions. This will result in gridlock. These changes will help us create more space for socially distanced walking and cycling as part of the Mayor’s Street Space programme.

We need renewed action to help us keep the recent improvements to air quality. Cleaner air during lockdown, and emerging evidence linking air pollution to the most severe impacts of COVID-19, make this task even more urgent.

Hackney council COVID19

For Hackney council COVID19 information and ways the council are assisting businesses and residents, please visit


Islington council COVID19

For Islington council COVID19 information and ways the council are assisting businesses and residents, please visit




Unsung local heroes that go that extra mile to make Islington a better place to live and work can get well-deserved recognition and thanks for their hard work at the Mayor’s Civic Awards and Ben Kinsella Award 2020.

Every year Islington recognises and celebrates the huge difference local people make to their community and how their actions bring positive change to the lives of others. However, these actions often go unnoticed so the awards are an important opportunity to recognise and reward the hard work and positive impact of individuals, families and groups.

The Mayor’s Civic Award Scheme acknowledges volunteers, campaigners and fundraisers who are at the very heart of Islington’s thriving local community. The Ben Kinsella Award, given in memory of Ben Kinsella, is a special youth award that recognises the contribution of an inspiring young person.

Hackney Council


Hackney Borough Council are running their toy gift appeal and Zero Waste Hub to make sure any items you no longer need go to a good home.

The toy gift appeal, gifts unwanted toys to children in the borough through charitable organisations.

So please keep any toys and electrical goods no longer wanted to one side and donate once restrictions have been lifted.

For more information visit: https://hackney.gov.uk/toy-gift-appeal?medium=email&source=govdelivery

Shoreditch Town Hall


We all know King Ubu. That deranged dictator we all love to hate. Impossibly greedy, unstoppably crude, inexorably daft and hell-bent on making the country great again!

Sound familiar?

Based on Alfred Jarry’s riot-inducing masterpiece, Kneehigh will let rip with their own version of theatre’s most anarchic creations – KING UBU.

Expect world-class buffoonery in this deliriously unhinged improvised promenade musical (surely the first of its kind!). Featuring some of the most iconic anthems of our times, given a fresh rub for their money by a belting Kneehigh band, plus an extraordinary choir of extras – you! – we guarantee this will be a rocking, rollicking riot of ridiculousness that you won’t forget.

He’ll rise! He’ll reign! Only together will we make Ubu fall!