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Greenwich: How Anthony Spargo and the team are set to take on Snow White

Greenwich Theatre pantomime eschews a dame in favour of a dragged-up villain and a cast of puppets

Anthony Spargo has written this year’s Greenwich Theatre panto, Snow White, and will star in at as the Evil Queen

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I‘m delighted to find Anthony Spargo walking when he arrives for our interview.

The last time I saw him, on stage as the Sheriff Of Nottingham at Greenwich Theatre, I feared the machinations of one scene in particular might have caused irreparable damage to his lower half.

But the intervening months have been kind and there’s a distinct bounce in his gait as he strides into the Arcola – the Dalston venue where rehearsals are being held for this year’s pantomime.

For 2023, writer and actor Anthony has penned a version of Snow White, set to run at Greenwich Theatre from November 23 until January 7, 2024.

It’s the second work he’s written for the venue, following on from Robin Hood last year, but his 12th as the villain, who this year doubles as the dame.

“It’s a bit like the Ugly Sisters in Cinderella, where there’s no dame character,” said Anthony.

“I knew I was playing the Evil Queen and I did write an early version with a dame as the queen’s beautician and Snow White’s nanny, but I was struggling with the material.

“The problem was when Snow White escapes to the wood, the nanny doesn’t have anything to do.

“So instead it’ll be me dragging-up and encompassing both roles in a single part.

“It’s the same team as last year – ‘Uncle’ Steve Marwick as musical director, James Haddrell directing and me – and we decided to tackle Snow White because none of us could remember the theatre putting it on before and we wanted to have a female-focused story after Robin Hood

Anthony in a more troubling pose as the Sheriff Of Nottingham in Robin Hood

“Next year, who knows – maybe the hero will be a trans person. Pantomime has always been a bit gender-neutral – guys dressing as dames and women dressing as male heroes.” 

Also returning alongside Anthony will be Martin Johnson as Herman The Huntsman (previously Friar Tuck) and Louise Cielecki as Muddles (formerly Mutley).

Other lead roles are taken by Katie Tomkinson as Snow White, Tom Bales as Prince Charming and DeeArna McLean as the Magic Mirror.

“When writing a show, you take the essence of the story and use that as a kind of chassis – a foundation,” said Anthony. 

“But it wouldn’t be a Greenwich panto without a nice twist. There are stand-out plot points and, if I went to see a version that didn’t have some of them, I would be disappointed – so we’ve got the poisoned apple, and the dwarves are obviously in there.

“Then there’s the queen ordering the huntsman to kill Snow White, and he can’t quite bring himself to do it – so the big iconic moments are present.

“In fact, Act One is pretty packed with story, story, story. It moves fast, with lots to set up – the stories of all the characters, for example, which is a panto staple.

“As an audience member though, you could be forgiven for thinking that pretty much all of the story is wrapped up by the interval – that’s where the twist comes in.

“In Act Two you can get away with having a bit of fun and silly surprises – taking people to places they least expect and climaxing in the destruction of the villain. 

Louise Cielecki, seen here as Mutley in Robin Hood, is set to return as Muddles

“In Sleeping Beauty we went to the moon and in Robinson Crusoe we went to the Wild West.

“This year we’re not travelling to different destinations, but I don’t want to give too much away – you’ll just have to come and see.”

Anthony said the thrill and unpredictability of the show was the main draw, with people able to step outside their lives for a few hours and revel in some proper, carefully crafted nonsense. 

“With any show, it’s escapism – a chance to get away from whatever’s going on in the world and let it go,” he said.

“People should come to have fun and be a kid again – shouting out at the villain and cheering the goodies.

“The first read-through is when I get to hear it out loud.

“What I secretly love, is the way a whole gang of people take the inane, stupid, silly nonsense that I have written, completely seriously, and have the most intense and serious conversations about the most stupid things.

“For example, there have been lengthy discussions about how a machine that sticks labels on boxes in this year’s show works, even though it doesn’t actually have to really operate at any point on stage.

“One of the joys of working with a brilliant cast is that while I might have written the lines, other actors may come up with stuff I hadn’t even thought of and deliver it in a way I hadn’t expected.

“When that happens, it’s amazing. 

Long-standing panto player Martin Johnson, seen here as Friar Tuck, is also set to return as the Huntsman

“The dwarves in the story will be played by the cast, our two ensemble members and stage management using puppets and we have a couple of really lovely sequences with them because you can’t do Snow White without that.

“We’ll also be bringing back the revolve on stage this year so we can change scene.

“We have a great new designer – Emily Bestow – who’s been absolutely brilliant.

“Last year it was realism in Sherwood Forest, but this year it feels like we’re back in panto-land. It’s bright, colourful and there’s loud glitter everywhere.

“As for next year, we have started to have conversations about it but haven’t decided what it will be yet.

“With this one I started getting ideas for it while performing Robin Hood and then began writing the show in January last year.

“You start off setting out a plot scene-by-scene and things slowly start merging and coming together.

“I’d love to do Peter Pan again, because selfishly I’d like to play Captain Hook.

“We did it about eight years ago and it’s a great show – audiences love it, there’s flying and also, THERE’S NO BETTER VILLAIN IN PANTO.”

…must resist. Ok, fine. OH YES THERE IS… (suggestions on a postcard to info@wharf-life.com)    

  • Tickets for Snow White cost £33 (£16.50 concessions), with performances running Tuesday-Sunday at various times.  

Find out more about Snow White at Greenwich Theatre here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Isle Of Dogs: How Craft Central is set to host its Winter Market at The Forge

The Westferry Road venue will see more than 30 makers selling products at its festive event

Craft Central will host its annual Winter Market at The Forge

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The mercury is falling and the faint whiff of spiced pumpkin lattes is receding.

At the time of writing, the buzz of Bonfire Night is everywhere.

The anticipation of the first frost is in the air too – the coming chill that makes the cosiness of the festive season all the more welcome. 

Promising a Japanese pop-up cafe, mulled wine and a warm welcome from more than 30 designer-makers, Craft Central’s annual weekend Winter Market is set to be held this month.

Opening 11am-5pm on November 18 and 19, 2023, at The Forge on Westferry Road, the event offers visitors the chance to get their festive shopping sorted with a wide range of products including accessories, fashion, jewellery, ceramics, stationery, prints and textiles available to purchase.

Craft Central event coordinator, Marguerite Metz, said: “We invite makers from our wider network to come and sell in our gallery space for this annual event, so we have a lovely mix of applied arts and crafts as well as some of the studio holders at The Forge.

“It’s a great community event for locals and people throughout London to come to – we had about 1,000 last year.

“The building itself is quite unusual and lots of people walk past and have no idea what’s inside. 

“It’s not normally open to the public, so this is a chance for people who are interested in what’s going on to visit.

“The makers we have are all lovely and they really enjoy it.

“They like it because it’s easy for them to showcase their products, due to the people who come and also the relaxed atmosphere it has.

“The market is not-for-profit, we do it to support the makers and to show the community the possibilities of making.

“It only works if local people come and take advantage of the chance to visit and support the people trading, so we want to welcome as many as possible.”

Visitors to the market will find a wealth of products on offer

Makers trading at the market will include Diaphane Candles, artist Almha McCartan, Anonoma Jewellery, Ark Jewellery, embroiderer Beatrice Mayfield, Bibba London (jewellery), Brûler Candles and By Kala X (products made with African prints).

 Also attending will be Caroline Nuttall-Smith (printmaker and ceramicist), Elektra Kamoutsis (ceramicist), Forge + Thread (accessories), Frank Horn (leatherwork), Gruff Turnery (wood turning)Heim Design (concrete products) Kam Creates (jewellery) Karn’s Textile design, Kate Hodgson Jewellery, Maria Maya (homeware), Mark Waite Paintings and Morgan Amber (textiles).

As if that wasn’t enough, Mountain And Molehill (lampshades), Noriko Nagaoka Ceramics, Pipet Design (silk scarves), Tomoko Hori Jewellery And Object Sato Hisao (paper crafts), Suzie Lee Knitwear, Tangent Accessories and Ted Houghton Studio (knitwear), will be there too.

The Winter Market will also be hosting two drop-in workshops where visitors can get creative. 

On the Saturday, Funky Jewellery Making will offer participants the chance to transform a variety of vintage objects, images and unusual items into bespoke jewellery. 

People are welcome to bring their own objects to incorporate into their designs or to draw on the selection provided.

Makers will be on hand to sell their creations

All attachments and jewellery findings will be included.

Marguerite said: “Visitors might create surreal pieces of jewellery, with fun items to put together for themselves or make unique pieces that will be perfect for a Christmas gift.

“People are welcome to upcycle odd bits-and-bobs.”

On the Sunday, designer Georgia Bosson will be hosting Festive Block Printing with participants able to create a piece of textile wrapping paper or a Christmas card using hand-carved wooden blocks. The activity is suitable for ages 5+.

“Using textile wrapping paper is a Japanese tradition and it’s sustainable because it’s reusable,”said Marguerite. 

“If they wanted to, people could come on Saturday and make a present, before returning on Sunday to create the wrapping.

“These workshops are part of Craft Central’s duty to help bring craft to people.”

The suggested donation for both sessions, which run from 12.30pm-4.30pm on a drop-in basis, is £5. 

Some makers with studios at The Forge will also be opening these up for visitors to see during the event, including Crushed Pearl (floristry), Pon Studios (ceramics), Tanya Roya (artist), Olive Road,  (vintage fabrics) and SilPhi Glass (jewellery).

Some studios at The Forge will also be open for visitors to view

Craft Central, in addition to being a provider of studio spaces for designer makers at The Forge, is always looking to extend and grow its network. 

To that end, the charity is introducing a new tiered membership scheme with the aim of getting more people involved in its activities. 

Its basic package includes access to an insurance scheme for craft workers and designer makers as well as inclusion in its online directory. The package costs £53 per year.

There’s also an enhanced package for £99, which includes a selection of discounts on markets and activities as well as access to community programmes and business advice.

The top £199 premium package is available to established artists or makers and is by application only. 

It includes a range of substantial discounts as well as use of The Forge’s exhibition and workshop space for free.

“We wanted to offer different options so that people can easily access Craft Central,” said Anne-Sophie Cavil, who handles communications and marketing for the organisation. 

“A graduate, for example, might take a basic membership, while more established makers might choose the enhanced or premium options, that offer a range of benefits.

“The one you choose will depend on where you are in your career.”

Find out more about Craft Central here

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Sticks’n’Sushi’s sustainable recipe for growth is delivering

Danish-Japanese restaurant company continues to build on its foundation of local branches

The Kimono Room at Sticks’n’Sushi

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Cosette Perez is standing in front of a wall of riotous silk.

We’re talking in Sticks’n’Sushi’s Kimono Room, a semi-private event space decorated with richly embellished examples of the garment hung along its walls from poles.

“It can seat 24 and the tables are completely flexible – we’ve done masterclasses here and tastings,” she said.

“It’s great for drinks gatherings, receptions, family groups getting together and people holding all types of events. 

“It has curtains so it can be separated from the rest of the restaurant, but you’re not locked away in a tiny box.

“The kimonos are genuine – bought in Japan – and came to us via Berlin and Copenhagen in a suitcase. Now they’re hanging here.

“It’s a versatile space and we probably don’t talk about it enough.” 

In a sense, the Kimono Room is an expression of Sticks’n’Sushi’s approach to hospitality.

The calm, Scandinavian minimalism is a well-honed backdrop to the vibrant garments that adorn its walls. 

This is similar to the way the wide, open, stripped-back industrial space of the restaurant proper, filled with square tables and simple leather chairs, acts as a counterpoint to the bright colourful food and flavours it serves. 

A balance is struck. But it’s not just between the dishes, muted colours and bare concrete.

“It’s the whole experience, not just the food but the way our staff greet guests,” said Cosette, who joined the brand as UK senior marketing manager three years ago.

“When you walk through the door, you’ll be welcomed in Japanese by the waiters and the kitchen staff.

Sticks’n’Sushi’s Cosette Perez

“We’re really proud of our service – we hope people will be impressed and amazed and that, by the time they leave, they’ll definitely want to come again. 

“Obviously, we serve excellent food, but then you get a really nice goodbye too – it all helps keep people coming back again and again.”

It’s a recipe that has seen the brand, including its Canary Wharf branch, thrive – despite some significant headwinds.

Firstly, Sticks has done well – it was in the vanguard of venues to arrive on the estate in 2015 when Crossrail Place opened.

Back then, a three-year wait was anticipated before Elizabeth Line trains would start running.

The delay turned out to be seven years, with services only arriving in 2022.

Nevertheless, alongside the likes of Chai Ki, The Breakfast Club and Ippudo, Sticks’ has proved a consistent draw for Wharfers in that time and continues to do a bustling trade now that the commuters are also flowing to the north of the estate. 

“Our growth is exciting – we’ve opened a restaurant each year since 2012 and we’ve launched two for the first time this year in Shoreditch and Kingston in quick succession,” said Cosette.

“There are more branches coming too – we’re planning Richmond in early spring and a couple of others that we’re not revealing yet – there’s a lot coming up.

“The thing that’s driving growth is the fact we’re settled in the locations where we’ve already opened. 

“We know what we can offer and we’re received a really warm welcome in those neighbourhoods.

“We have some really loyal customers and we’re trying to reach out to even more people.”

Specifically, Sticks is very much a product of its background.

Sushi at Sticks’n’Sushi

Founded by two brothers and their brother-in-law in Copenhagen, the brand draws on their half-Danish, half-Japanese heritage, bringing sushi together with yakitori on its menu.

The first restaurant opened in 1994 with the business growing to 12 in Denmark, three in Berlin, one each in Oxford and Cambridge and eight in London. 

“It’s a blend of Scandinavian simplicity and Japanese dishes with a twist,” said Cosette.

“We have highly skilled sushi chefs and we like to break the mould – we play with the menu quite a lot, creating specials that follow the seasons.

“If guests really like them, of course, they might always make it onto the main menu.

“Personally, what I order changes with my mood and the temperature. Cold weather calls for miso soup, a couple of yakitori sticks and rice.

“If it’s really nice and sunny, then definitely sushi and perhaps some cerviche. It’s really delicious, fresh and clean on the palate.”

Speaking of seasonal food, the restaurant is all set for Christmas with its Sticks’n’Santa offering available from Monday, November 27.

Promising a Japanese twist on festive classics it’s come up with three menus for revellers to choose from:

The Holly Menu 

a gastronomic journey, £40pp

This menu promises an array of dishes “that redefine festive indulgence” including Miso Sprouts plus Yellowtail Kingfish and Grilled Pepper Nigiris. There’s also the Chicks‘n’Blankets stick – a whimsical take on a beloved Christmas dinner staple.

The Mistletoe Menu 

luxurious festivity, £65pp

For those seeking opulence, this menu promises a symphony of flavours including Wagyu Temaki (a marriage of seared Kyushu Wagyu beef, sushi rice, soy, and crisp nori). There’s also the Aka Ebi yakitori stick – a showcase of Argentinian red shrimp with spicy gochujang and garlic butter.

The Evergreen Menu 

plant-based delights, £40pp

For those who prefer to dine exclusively on plant-based ingredients, Sticks‘n’Sushi has created a special festive menu to ensure all palates are catered for. This option promises a celebration of the best nature has to offer, allowing  the restaurant to demonstrate its commitment to serving everyone’s tastes.  

In addition to these, Sticks will be offering a three wise men-inspired Seasonal Sampler of Wagyu Temaki, Miso Fried Sprouts and Kakiage Tempura with Ikura over the festive season.

Its bar staff have also come up with some special festive cocktails and there’s the further incentive of a free bottle of Telmont Champagne for bookings of six or more on Mondays or Tuesdays.

Festive frippery aside, however, the appeal of Sticks for Cosette is very much in its everyday operation. 

The Canary Wharf restaurant offers a wide selection of dishes

“I’ve been in hospitality for most of my working life,” she said.

“I landed in London from Mexico in 2008. I came for six months and my dad is still asking when I’m coming back. 

“In that time I went from waitress to assistant manager, to manager, and then I got into marketing.

“I came to work at Sticks because I really like the ethos of the company. I’d done a bit of work for the business and read a lot about it.

“I thought: ‘If it walks the walk, as it talks it, then it would be a lovely firm to work for’ – and it is. It’s all about the people and that comes from the CEO.

“All the management is in-house and all the people running the restaurants have been with the company for about five years at least.

“The business has been here for almost 12 years and it still employs the very first person it hired.

“There are head office people who have worked for Sticks for 10 or 11 years.

“The idea is that if you look after the staff, then they look after our guests.

“We also know that it’s harder to recruit someone into a business than it is to promote from within.

“If they carry the company’s DNA and are proud of the work they do, then they’ll always want to do more and give more of themselves – for the business’ part, we always try to pay that back.”

Kids, despite the grown-up design of the restaurants, are also a key part of the strategy. 

“For us they are VIPs – we look after them really well because we know they are the next generation of guests,” said Cosette. 

“We see a lot in our more family-orientated areas like Greenwich and Wimbledon, but also in Canary Wharf on Saturdays and Sundays. 

“There’s a wooden monkey hidden around the restaurant for them to find and they get a chocolate fish if they do.”

Increasingly popular, making reservations is advised whether you’re up for a spot of simian spotting or just going for a selection of seafood delights. 

Find out more about Sticks’n’Sushi here

Sticks serves grilled dishes as well as sushi

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- Jon Massey is co-founder and editorial director of Wharf Life and writes about a wide range of subjects in Canary Wharf, Docklands and east London - contact via jon.massey@wharf-life.com
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Canary Wharf: How Jon Hala’s salon is all set to get you looking your best for Christmas

Hair and makeup package offered for those special events alongside range of aesthetic treatments

Jon Hala opened his salon in Jubilee Place in 2019
Jon Hala opened his salon in Jubilee Place in 2019 – image Matt Grayson

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You can feel it, can’t you? With the decorations up throughout Canary Wharf’s malls, the festive season is upon us and, with last year’s celebrations curtailed by the pandemic, the estate is almost vibrating with anticipation for the parties and events to come. 

Anyone who had previously taken winter festivities for granted has had a long 18 months of restrictions and lockdowns to provide a bit of perspective for 2021.

Little wonder then that venues are already reporting a surge of bookings with home and office workers alike apparently desperate for a bit of real-life face time.

The gyms’ treadmills and weights machines are working overtime as bodies softened by Zoom calls in bed and too many takeaways are honed back towards something approaching shredded perfection.

With serious pent up demand, everybody wants to look and feel their best – after all, Christmas comes but once a year and this one has even more traction that usual.

“People in Canary Wharf want glamour,” said Jon Hala. “And that’s what we’re all about.

“That means bouncy, beach wave and editorial-style blow-dries – the kind of thing you’d see in Vogue. 

“Our aim is to make everyone feel amazing – totally comfortable in their own skin.”

The salon specialises in colour treatments
The salon specialises in colour treatments – image Matt Grayson

Jon opened his eponymous salon at Jubilee Place in October 2019 as the culmination of decades working at the very top of the industry.

Training with Vidal Sassoon was followed by about 16 years at Nicky Clarke’s Mayfair salon, before going on to style A-list clients from the worlds of film and fashion. 

As workers return to the estate’s offices and an increasing number of residents move to homes both on and close to the estate, Jon remains as determined as ever to deliver cutting edge services while remaining agile and adaptive to his client’s needs.

“We want to serve the people of Canary Wharf, to give them what they want as well as a great experience along the way,” he said. “We never turn clients away – we are very accommodating.

“If someone wants to come at 7am, they can – we call it the early bird appointment. It’s the same if it’s after hours and we never rush anybody.

“We’re independent and completely focused on customer service – we’re certainly not an average salon. We give clients little gifts, something they can take away as a thank you for coming here.

“It’s about bringing Knightsbridge to Canary Wharf – we have an amazing team who are all highly skilled and have worked in films, advertising and editorial.”

Those considering having their locks tamed by the salon can also be confident as staff regularly take time to consider trends, styles and fashions clients might want.

“Part of our training here is to hold monthly soirees, looking at magazines and working out what the next trends will be,” said Jon.

“The evenings are fun but educational – we put bullet points on a mirror and discuss what’s coming through.

“As a result of lockdown, for example, men have become used to having longer hair and many found they liked it.

“For women, it’s been a case of short bobs in case another lockdown happened. As a business we work with a lot of high end brands including haute couture house Balmain, which we’re ambassadors for, so we’re very up on the latest trends – we have to be.”

The salon specialises in colour services and offers products from brands such as Shu Uemura, Oribe, Sknhead, Kerastase and American Crew as well as making its own Miracle Masque.

Jon has also tailored his business to meet the very specific demands Canary Wharf generates and, having spotted a niche, the salon has launched a hair and beauty package designed to get clients ready for events, whether that’s for Christmas or at any other time over the course of a year.

“We’ve come up with an affordable combination of hair and makeup – inspired by salons in west London that offer everything under one roof,” he said.

“It costs £100 and that’s split equally between a blow-dry and make-up. It’s a good deal because just having the latter done professionally can be more than £70 alone.”

Violeta Hala oversees the aesthetic treatments
Violeta Hala oversees the aesthetic treatments – image Matt Grayson

The salon also now offers a range of aesthetic treatments overseen and delivered by Jon’s wife, Violeta. 

Chief among the services it offers are a wide range of treatments using a NeoGen Plasma machine, which uses pulses of nitrogen plasma aimed at stimulating collagen production.

“When people are over 30 or 35, they start to realise that they have to take care of their skin, so we are providing a range of needle-free treatments using this machine,” said Violeta, right.

“It can be used to improve darker patches of skin, to lessen the appearance of rosacea and even to lift the eyebrows.

“There is literally no pain and, after a few treatments, people will start to see the results.

“It’s ideal for anyone who is scared of needles and doesn’t want to risk bruising on their face.

“There’s no downtime, so people can even pop in and have a treatment during their lunchbreak. It depends what we’re treating, but the process takes no longer than 40 minutes. 

“The results are quite quick too – I would say three or four treatments to see improvements, so there’s still time to get it in time for Christmas.”

A client having a NeoGen Plasma treatment
A client having a NeoGen Plasma treatment – image Matt Grayson

The salon also offers Mesotherapy for both beauty applications and to fight hair loss.

Violeta said: “We use nano-needles that are so small – so soft and tiny – that they don’t leave any bruising.

“We’re injecting 55 different vitamins, which includes four different amino acids into areas that require it. After three treatments you see amazing results and I would advise that it is repeated every four to six weeks.

“At the salon we also offer fat dissolving injections, which is a revolutionary new treatment that can be especially helpful after people have been sitting at home for long periods during the pandemic.

“It can be used to target anywhere on the body where fat has been stored – the legs, hips, chests, lower back, the arms, the knees and the chin – to break down the fat cells.

“Clients should see results after the second or third session but it has to be done gradually so your skin has time to adjust.”

Staff at the salon are happy to talk potential clients through the various aesthetic treatments offered and to explain in greater detail the sorts of results that can be expected.

Back on the hair side of the business, that’s also true as Jon always aims to give his customers what they want.

He said: “You can only ever suggest things to people – it’s about meeting halfway. I don’t ask a client: ‘What are we doing today?’.

“But I will recommend styles that will suit them. Then we do a two-step haircut where we take some off, then decide whether to go further. It always works out.”

Follow this link to make a booking at Jon Hala online

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