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Garden Talk: Grow your own herbs

Basil, marjoram, balm-mint, and mint in flower pots in balcony. Organic, pesticide free gardening.

There’s nothing nicer – or healthier – than cooking with fresh herbs picked from your own garden. Most are easy to grow and look fab, whether in borders or containers and raised beds. Mediterranean varieties prefer sun and free-draining soil – add coarse grit and organic matter to clay soil. Others, such as coriander, mint and parsley prefer some shade and plenty of moisture. Here’s my pick of the best:


Mint can be invasive in a border, so it’s best grown in a pot. It Iikes rich moist soil and can tolerate shade. Keep picking it to encourage growth and divide it when it’s outgrown the container. Varieties include Lemon Mint, Apple Mint and Chocolate Mint – nice in puddings!

Uses: Great in teas and summer drinks, with roast lamb or in Middle Eastern dishes such as couscous – I love mint sprinkled over feta and salmon before roasting.


Sage has lovely silvery leaves, but needs a good prune in early spring to stop it getting leggy. There are varieties with different leaf colours, such as purple and golden sage.

Uses: Great with onions in stuffing, with pork or sage butter.


Its foliage comes in colours from golden yellow to variegated silver – and is best picked before the pretty pink or purple summer flowers.

Use: Use a few fresh leaves in stews and with meat such as beef burgers – also nice in minestrone soup.


A handsome evergreen shrub that can be trained into a ball, pyramid or lollipop.

Use: Bay leaves – fresh or dried – give a lovely flavour to stocks and soups. (Remove them before blending!)


A must-have herb – rosemary is tough, easy to grow and has pretty blue, lilac or white flowers. It can get big but is easy to prune into a neat shape. ‘Miss Jessopp’s Upright’ has a tall habit whereas creeping prostrate varieties are good hanging over walls.

Use: Great with roast lamb and roast veg.

Oregano (marjoram)

Best harvested before the pretty purple-pink flowers appear – but they’re lovely too and are a bee magnet!

Use: Strip off a few of the leaves for tomato-based pasta sauce or Bolognese. Or use the woody stems to make a bouquet garni.


Chives like well-drained soil, but can grow in heavier soils in partial shade. The flowers are so pretty, and you can eat them in salads, then cut the plant back to the ground for a second flush. Otherwise keep snipping off buds to encourage growth.

Use: With a similar flavor to garlic and onions, they’ll liven up salads, eggs and cheese dishes.


The tall feathery foliage of fennel looks lovely with other tall perennials in a border and the yellow flowers are followed by edible seeds.

Use: Fresh leaves are tasty in salads and collect the dried seeds to make teas.


Unlike the others, basil is an annual. Grow in pots on a warm windowsill and avoid overwatering. You can grow it from seed or small plants – I bought a pot from the supermarket last year and divided it into five different pots. Sweet basil and Greek basil are two good varieties to look out for.

Use: Delicious sprinkled on pizzas or tomato-based Mediterranean dishes or blend with pine nuts and parmesan to make your own pesto.

Barbara Samitier is a garden designer who lives in Peckham Rye.

This article first appeared in the April 2017 issue of SE22 magazine.

The Herne Hill Free Film Festival Celebrates Its 5th Birthday

The Herne Hill Free Film Festival celebrates its 5th birthday with a month-long programme of screenings ranging from Hollywood blockbusters, documentary films and shorts by local filmmakers. The event runs from 28 April to 29 May 2017 across a range of venues around SE24, including iconic outdoor sites, local churches, schools, pubs, railways arches and a brewery.

Dates – 28 April to 29 May 2017
Venues – various locations around Herne Hill, SE24
Price – all events are free. No booking required. Full programme available here.

The fun-packed and diverse programme starts on 28th April with Roald Dahl’s BFG at Rosendale School, with a special Q&A session with the film’s star, award-winning actor Mark Rylance. On 26th May, this year’s most talked about film, La La Land, will be screened at the Herne Hill Velodrome. Moonlight, winner of the 2017 Oscar for Best Picture, will be lighting up the iconic Brockwell Lido on 13th May. A few hundred yards away, on 20th May, Gloria Gaynor and ABBA will be echoing around Brockwell Park courtesy of The Adventures of Priscilla, Queen of the Desert. On 27th May, sci-fi blockbuster Arrival will show at the Sterling Prize-winning Zaha Hadid designed Evelyn Grace Academy. The festival’s outdoor antics come to a close with Charlie Chaplin and Laurel and Hardy at Herne Hill Station on the 28th, the last Sunday in May. Accompanied by the legendary composer Neil Brand on piano, this performance is not to be missed.

Two of the grandest venues in the area will be screening two cornerstones of 20th Century cinema. Imitation of Life, one of the jewels of 1950’s film, will be warmly welcomed at Holy Trinity Church, while Fritz Lang’s silent masterpiece Metropolis will be making its way to All Saints Church, accompanied by Gottfried Huppert’s original orchestral score.

The festival will also be floating down the Amazon with Embrace of the Serpent and taking a trip to Moscow’s least salubrious parts with Something Better to Come at the Lido Café, while at Canopy Brewery, Peter Fonda and Dennis Hopper will be cruising in Easy Rider. At the newly reopened Half Moon, the audience will be escaping a South Korean zombie attack on a Train to Busan, while at Off the Cuff, they’ll be watching The Big Lebowski while drinking White Russians with the Dude.

As usual, documentary lovers are well catered for with Murderball playing at Fison Fitness, Cameraperson rolling at The Prince Regent and the Oscar nominated Fire at Sea sailing into the Half Moon. The Florence has elected to feature Tim Robbins’ political mockumentary Bob Roberts while War of Words, a documentary about the UK battle rap scene, will be screening at live music venue Off the Cuff.

Local film-making talent also gets its chance to shine with the 48 Hour Film Challenge, the ever-popular Short-Film Night and two feature length screenings from local directors and producers, Beautiful Devils and Adult Life Skills.

Now in its 5th year the Herne Hill Free Film Festival was established to bring film to all corners of the local community, to make the experience of cinema accessible to everyone and to introduce people to films they might not otherwise cross paths with. The festival has grown year on year since its inception in 2012, and 2017 looks set to be no exception!

The Herne Hill Free Film Festival is a volunteer-led community event made possible by the generous support of Pedder Property, Southeastern Rail, the Lido Café, Flannery Media, Llewelyn’s and yesmum. The festival’s volunteers are also grateful to all the venues for hosting screenings and to audiences for their kind donations.

For more details visit

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Show And Tell present Kieran Hodgson: Maestro

In 2003 Kieran Hodgson heard the music of Gustav Mahler and decided to write a symphony. 13 years later, Kieran returns with a violin and a story about falling in love and attempting something far beyond your abilities.

Following a sell-out tour and BBC Radio 4 adaptation of last year’s Lance, Hodgson returns with his second Edinburgh Comedy Award nominated smash-hit character comedy show.

Edinburgh Comedy Award best show nominee – 2016 and 2015. Star of Radio 4’s Lance and seen in BBC2’s Upstart Crow and Dad’s Army: We’re Doomed.

KIERAN HODGSON: MAESTRO at The MCT at Alleyn’s on May 5th 2017 at 8pm – bar open from 7.15pm. The MCT at Alleyn’s, Townley Road, Dulwich SE22 8SU. Box Office: or tel. 0208 557 1541.

‘A whip-smart, intensely personal paean to following one’s heart – in which the next big laugh is never more than a semiquaver away’

★★★★★ The Telegraph

‘Hodgson’s ample narrative, comic and performing skills combine in perfect harmony’

★★★★ The Guardian

‘This funny heartwarming show sends you out humming with happiness’

★★★★ The Times / @show_and_tell

What effect does stress have on the body?

Stress is not necessarily a bad thing, but too much stress, can be very harmful to the body. So how do we learn to manage stress and what is the impact it has on our minds and bodies?

Central Nervous System

The central nervous system (CNS) is comprised of the brain and the spinal cord, and can be considered the command and control centre of the human body. It communicates with the rest of the body via neurons linked to what is called the peripheral nervous system (PNS). When a stimulus is introduced to the body, receptors communicate with sensory neurons, which in turn communicate with motor neurons to affect a response within the CNS.

A nervous breakdown can happen when the CNS is subjected to repeated and prolonged stress. It can also be caused by a chemical imbalance in the brain. Worry, chronic stress, fear, anxiety, nervousness and panic attacks are all symptoms of a mental breakdown, or burnout.

Allostatic load

Allostasis is the process of achieving stability (homeostasis) through physiological or behavioural change; it is the wear and tear on the body that develops over time when an individual is exposed to chronic and fluctuating stress levels.

Every system in the body is affected by allostatic overload. Initially, the production of adrenaline and cortisol sharpen up the memory, keeping the individual focused in a time of danger. As the stress is repeated however, the neurons atrophy and memory becomes impaired. The immune system is impacted also; low levels of stress promote immune function by sending immune cells to the areas of the body where they are needed to defend against a pathogen. Chronic stress however, has the reverse effect of suppressing immune function, and the individual’s risk of chronic disease suddenly becomes elevated.

Stress and exercise

If chronic stress is left unchecked it can lead to physical and mental breakdown. Now, exercise can’t directly help certain things, but it can help to improve your state of mind, help you sleep better and therefore think more clearly. Exercise has been proven to decrease the production of stress-related hormones and increase the production of other hormones such as serotonin, adrenaline and dopamine, which together can contribute to making you feel more positive, happier and uplifted.

Anxiety, depression and exercise

Exercise is often under-prescribed by the medical community as part of a treatment plan for anxiety and depression, but despite that is widely considered to be central to helping people manage their condition. It isn’t only the chemical responses in the region of the brain that help make people feel better about themselves, but also the physical changes can help improve one’s self-esteem and feelings of self-worth and competency.

The brain and exercise

There are numerous positive changes to the brain that occur during and after exercise (specifically aerobic exercise). These changes occur in different parts of the brain, and in some cases the benefits are still enjoyed even after you stop exercising.

One of the best ways to manage chronic stress is exercise, but it must be at the appropriate intensity, for the right time and the right type. If you are very stressed, it might be best for you to start with a gentle walk. If you’re worried about your stress levels, consult your GP as a first step.

leanne spencer

Leanne Spencer

This article first appeared in the April 2017 issue of SE22 magazine.

Horniman Museum & Gardens: April events

Library Open Day
First Sunday of each month, 10.30am–5.30pm

Browse our library collections and see some of the library treasures. Free, drop in.

Nature Trail Welly Walk: Signs of Spring
Saturday 22 April, 1.45–3.30pm

Get your wellies on and join us for fun activities to explore spring life on the Horniman Nature Trail. Have a go at sweep-netting, tree-beating, identification and more to discover the insects, animals and plants that live there in the spring.

Suitable for families with children aged 5+. Tickets: Adult £5, Child £3.

Horniman Farmers’ Market
Every Saturday, 9am – 1.30pm

Visit the Horniman Farmers’ Market every Saturday to pick-up your weekly essentials direct from independent and local producers. Located in our glorious Gardens you will find stalls selling seasonal fruit and veg, artisan bread, organic meat and delicious hot food. We also have regular guest traders specialising in treats such as luxury chocolates, homemade jams and irresistible cakes. Free entry.

Hear it Live!
Tuesday 25 Apr, 3.30pm
Join us in the Music Gallery to hear performances and talks based on our musical instrument collection, including our 1772 Kirckman harpsichord. Free.

Please see our website for information on regular family events and activities including Art Makers, A World of Stories and Busy Bees.