The coronavirus crisis has sparked a series of volunteer projects in the Enfield community to support the vulnerable

From Whatsapp and Facebook groups to food banks and churches, Enfield has seen a surge in unique initiatives with volunteers to support them. Even Jose Mourinho has been spotted putting together food packages for the elderly at Age UK Enfield

According to 2018 estimations, Enfield has one of the highest elderly population compared to other London Boroughs, with 43,903 people aged 65 and above. With measures in place to stop over-70s from catching coronavirus, the community has stepped up to make life more manageable for the vulnerable. 

James Maxwell posted 950 letters in Highlands Village to start a Whatsapp group that supports the vulnerable. What started as a way to deliver shopping to the elderly who were self-isolating, turned into a full-on operation.

A copy of the letter posted to the residents at Highlands Village


“The response was unbelievable. We’ve got 90 people in the group and it’s fantastic,” says James, overwhelmed with the support that his local project gathered. 

James found that the group had more volunteers than people who needed help. These included a GP, a councillor, a child psychologist, and plenty of people willing to pick up items on their shopping trips. Even elderly people who were restricted to their homes wanted to volunteer; James gave them buddy roles and assigned them people who needed support.

Despite recognising the “fantastic” support, James acknowledges an alarming reason for the skew towards more people volunteering than asking for help.  “I’m concerned that they’re not getting in touch and I think that is because they’re very wary of all these scams going on,” says James.

He adds: “The most important thing for them [members of the group] to do now is to tell their elderly neighbours that they’re part of this group… and we are not trying to scam them.” 

James has taken the responsibility on himself and recognises the “need to be extra cautious”, especially when it comes to the disinfection process. Ensuring every item of shopping does not contain any trace of the virus is a lengthy process but a necessary one. It involves wiping down every surface, every item, and every handle touched. When delivering it, James wears gloves and assigns “a dirty hand and a clean hand”. He receives the money in the dirty hand and delivers the shopping with the clean hand.

James’ disinfecting process for each item he receives

James’ project is not the only one to see a surge in volunteers. The North Enfield Foodbank has seen “amazing generosity” according to their manager Kerry Coe. They have been receiving donations ranging from local people to big businesses, including food from Costa Coffee and burger buns from McDonald’s.

Donations to North Enfield FoodBank from The Latymer School in Edmonton

This increase in donations matches the rise in demand. The food bank has seen 1,700 referrals in March, double their usual amount. 

Kerry says: “We’re able to feed everybody that comes to us but we would really encourage anyone who does want to donate because we think that we’re going to continue to see an increase in the number of people.” 

There’s been “a real community spirit”, not only in the donations but also the work attitude. Volunteers have been saying that “it’s been really lovely to be able to do something that actually makes a difference and blesses somebody else during this difficult time”, according to Kerry.

Volunteers helping out at the North Enfield FoodBank


The community spirit is also important to St. Thomas Church in Oakwood, where they are holding short live stream services, reading the bible over video-calling app Zoom and calling people to check up on them.

A daily service led by David Reavley, which was live streamed from the vicarage garden

Church music director and assistant youth worker, David Reavley, says: “In a time like this where people are lonely if we can be a friendly voice and over time become less of a stranger to each other then that’s a good thing.”

Like James, they posted flyers in their neighbourhood to reach out and help those struggling with isolation. “We’ve had 35 people who wouldn’t normally come to church asking for help from us,” says David. 

The church administrator pairs up the vulnerable with people who want to help, whether that is picking up their prescription or getting their shopping. 

David adds: “Hopefully over time we can build up a relationship to demonstrate that we don’t want to be an exclusive club for people who think that they’re good, but an inclusive church where anyone can come.”

With a high number of charities and services willing to help during this crisis, Love Your Doorstep has set up a service that brings together over 30 of them. They have supplied volunteers to North Enfield FoodBank and directed over 300 people to collect food and deliver it to those who need it. 

Their volunteer Facebook group has 1,300 people, over 600 of which have been logged as actively helping out with these services. 

Enfield is not the only borough to see this surge in volunteers. An umbrella organisation called COVID-19 Mutual Aid has inspired over 200 local groups to form all over the country. The groups offer both practical help and emotional support through this crisis.

The Mayor of Watford making an appearance at the Watford and Bushey COVID-19 Mutual Aid group

Anna Vickerstaff, one of the coordinators of the national network, said in a press release earlier this month: “There’s some pretty big questions about whether or not the government’s response to this crisis has been fit for purpose. So it’s even more important that so many ordinary people across the country are keen to offer solidarity to each other in a moment of need.” 

James has seen this solidarity first-hand and its impact on the community, he says: “Everyone’s there to help. They’re thinking of different ideas to help other people in the community… and everyone is of the opinion of sticking together.”

“The deliberative wave” that could change European politics

The audience responds with a laugh as Brett Hennig suggests in his TED talk to replace all the politicians in Parliament with randomly selected people. Brett, like many others, believes that in this proposition lies the answer to key modern-day issues. These include climate change, the refugee crisis, and rising inequality, but most of all it provides a solution to what he calls our “broken [democratic] system”.

It isn’t as easy as putting a group of random people in a room. Brett is referring to a citizens’ assembly, a deliberative and structured process where the power of policymaking is given to the people. “A citizens’ assembly is essentially bringing together a randomly selected but representative sample of people to talk about a political topic,” says Brett, director of the Sortition Foundation that helps select people for assemblies.

The past year has seen an “explosion” of citizens’ assemblies in Europe. The Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, an international organisation that assists with policymaking, is calling it the deliberative wave. The assemblies are being utilized by councils, governments, and public bodies.

This deliberative wave can be traced across the UK. Some of the many places include Birmingham, London, Leeds, and Edinburgh. The citizens’ Assemblies tackle topics from transport to health services. The list of locations and issues goes on. The Sortition Foundation alone has helped set up 20 assemblies in the past year.

One of the three demands from climate campaign group Extinction Rebellion is to institute citizens’ assemblies on ecological issues. Their website says that the assemblies are a “fair and transparent” method to achieve “climate justice”.

The key to a successful citizens’ assembly lies in the process. Caroline Pakel, Extinction Rebellion co-ordinator for people’s assemblies, says: “There’s an input stage, a deliberative stage and then an output stage.”

The input stage is where the group hears from experts to inform their discussion, these could include scientists, doctors, or even people who have had personal experience with the topic. Caroline highlights the need for professional facilitators in the deliberative stage as they impose rules of a “reasoned discussion” to help the participants arrive at a joint conclusion. The group presents their findings in the output stage, where it is recorded and presented to the rest of the group.

Caroline finds they often come to similar conclusions, as the assemblies create what she calls a “collective intelligence”.

Caroline says: “We can all do it together but none of us can claim that I had the idea because it’s been moulded by our sharing. So, when it comes to the consultation at the end… it comes very naturally. So, we don’t fight over ideas. It’s very organic, very collaborative.”

One of the most successful examples was the Irish citizens’ assembly held on abortion. With criticism coming from the United Nations, and politicians anxious about receiving backlash, Ireland gathered 100 people to discuss whether the ban should be lifted. They heard the medical and legal position to inform their deliberation and concluded that there should be unrestricted access to abortion in Ireland. A referendum was given to the public and 66% agreed with the recommendation from the assembly.

Siobhán Fenton, a freelance reporter on Irish politics, says: “The fact that the citizens’ assembly supported it put pressure on the government to set a referendum, pick a specific date in the near future, and make sure it actually happened.”

The abortion assembly was held in November 2016, with the referendum in 2018, and the law was finally brought into action in January 2019. Despite its success, Siobhán says that citizens’ assemblies are not fit for time sensitive issues “as there could be lots of irreparable damage” whilst the assemblies are taking place.

As such a widely experimented process, there are various ways in which they have been utilised. Last year, a council in East Belgium set up a permanent citizens’ assembly that tackles a variety of issues. Their conclusions are presented to parliament, which is enforced to engage with them. Parliament announces their position a year later, whether they decide to pursue the recommendations or not.

Citizens’ assemblies have encountered another problem, one that is very familiar to global politics; underrepresentation of women. Despite using a representative selection method, Siobhán says that women are more likely to drop out because they have “caring duties”.

“It’s the majority of men who tend to take part in the citizens’ assemblies… and that does mean that unfortunately, women tend to be blocked out from quite an important democratic process,” she says.

A skew towards male participants is not the only bias that lies in citizens’ assemblies. The Sortition Foundation has noticed that higher educated and wealthy people are more likely to respond to a citizens’ assembly invitation. Brett’s theory is that “the more highly educated you are, the more confident you are in expressing your opinion”.

To combat this skew, the Sortition Foundation sends 80% of the invitations to randomly selected households and the other 20% to impoverished areas of the country using the index of multiple deprivation.

One of the reasons why citizens’ assemblies have been experimented with is because there is not one singular formula. Laurie Moulton-Ulrich, a member of the Extinction Rebellion citizens’ assembly working group, says: “Looking across the world and experience, there’s no cookie-cutter approach to citizens’ assembly.”

Laurie adds that assemblies are used so differently for different purposes and a variety of topics, that there cannot be one fit-all version of the process.

This also means that Brett’s suggestion to replace all the politicians with randomly selected people is an unrealistic one. Laurie argues that citizens’ assemblies aren’t a method to replace those in power, but a tool to help put people at the forefront of democracy.

Siobhan says: “It can help give politicians a certain amount of momentum or legitimacy, but I don’t think it would work if you are having citizens’ assemblies on every single topic.”

Waste management offences have the highest number of prosecutions despite environmental prosecutions at a 12-year low

Environmental prosecutions have been declining since 2007 in the UK and are currently at an all-time low. However, waste management has been the least affected sector, as it has not seen such a stark fall in the number of prosecutions.

Emma Tattersdill, partner in Freeths’ specialist environment team, says one of the reasons for the decrease of prosecutions is awareness. She says: “Businesses have become more aware of the need to comply with environmental regulation.”

Despite this, waste management has seen the least decrease in prosecutions. It saw a decline of 71% of cases since 2007, whereas all other prosecutions decreased by 98%.

Anne Brosnan, Chief Prosecutor at the Environment Agency, says: “We continue to see high levels of criminal activity in the waste sector which it remains appropriate to deal with by formal interventions such as prosecution.”

Emma says: “The waste sector has been a real hot topic for environmental regulation over recent years. The reason for that is, it’s one sector that has been identified in the past as having a financial incentive to non-compliance.”

One of the costs in this sector is permit fees. This involves paying a permit fee, an annual fee, and the costs to ensure the business complies with the permit.

Nearly 80% of the waste management prosecutions that took place last year was because of non-compliance with these permit fees.

Last year, Winters Haulage, a waste management company, was fined £480,000 for storing thousands of tonnes of combustible waste without a permit. This was the fourth largest environmental fine that year.

Emma says: “The regulators have been keen to demonstrate that they are really hot on taking enforcement action against people in the waste sector who weren’t properly compliant.”

Changes to the landfill tax in 2018 saw regulators having greater legal powers when dealing with offenders not paying the tax. According to Emma, it introduced a penalty for those depositing waste illegally.

Waste management prosecutions have been declining since 2016, two years before these new laws. Although not as sharp as other sectors, it has seen a decrease of 67% of cases between 2016 and 2019.

Louise Smail, a corporate risk consultant, says: “Prosecutions are only the tip of the iceberg.”

She says that undertakings are one of the reasons for this fall. Instead of being prosecuted, undertakings allow companies to pay towards an environmental project, organisation, or charity.

In 2019, Whitehouse Centre, a farm in Northhumberland, was found breaking the permit regulations. They agreed to donate £1,500 to the local wildlife trust.

Undertakings may not be the only reason for this decrease. An Unearthed investigation last year revealed department cuts to the Environment Agency. Since July 2016, nearly 1,000 of their staff had been transferred to other departments to help with Brexit.

They also revealed the number of site inspections by the Environment Agency decreased by over a third in the past four years, which correlates with the decline of waste management prosecutions.

With law changes to landfill tax, the increase of environmental fines and companies utilising enforcement undertakings, both Emma and Louise are unsure of how this will affect the future of waste management prosecutions. This uncertainty coincides with the environment agency experiencing unprecedented cuts.

Buddhist raised beauty-therapist finds calling as heavy metal frontwoman

Patsy screamed into the microphone, fuelling the crowd of drunk metalheads. Heavy guitar riffs backed the growling of demonic and violent imagery. She sings: “I can’t help myself, but enjoy your demise”, before erupting into a false chord scream. For their second gig, Inferno Noir weren’t holding back. Patsy admitted this gig was better than the first, “mainly cause I was drunk so I wasn’t as nervous”. They announced their last song, as the crowd exploded into a moshpit.

Just like her red and black mane, there is more than one colour to Patsy Collins. I’m greeted by a calm English accent in a rowdy pub, as we make small talk about her wedding plans for the Summer.

Patsy spends her Sunday afternoons “Instagram whoring”. She takes pictures to build her personal page, and publicise Inferno Noir

Before securing a permanent nine-to-five job in beauty therapy and then health-care, Patsy worked as a freelance makeup artist. For a moment her excitement drained, she revealed: “I used to be a starving artist, I know what it’s like to constantly be worrying about where my next pay check is coming from.”

Her routine as a nine-to-five worker and an after-dark metal front-woman is not the only noticeable contrast. Patsy’s singing style alternates between growling and clean vocals, as she appreciates the dynamic of the two vocal styles. She explains: “I’m not always one kind of person, there’s two sides of the same coin.”

It took the band four years to finally get on stage

After relentless persuasion from the drummer and her now fiancé, Ed Pool, she gave in to sing on his tracks; forming Inferno Noir.

Patsy finally had an outlet, being able to write lyrics of what inspired her, “instead of going off what everyone else wanted to do.”

The making of their debut album could easily be described as a tragedy. It involved the lead guitarist leaving because “his heart wasn’t in it”, a two-year failed search for a drummer, and Ed suffering chronic migraines halting all progress for 6 months.


A guitarist and a bassist later, Ed finally agreed to drum. Patsy emphasised over football cheers in the pub: “Heavy metal drummers are really hard to find in London.” Sitting next to us, Ed raised his hands and cried: “We’re a dying breed, man.”

Having sung in bands which failed to take off, Patsy was determined to not let Inferno meet the same fate. Aged twelve, she started a pop-punk band with friends from her Thai temple. Smiling, she reminisces: “We just enjoyed rock music, we were twelve and thought yes let’s form a band, let’s go for it.”

Metal is known as a male dominated genre in a male dominated industry. Currently, Amy Lee and Jen Majura of Evanescence are the only female musicians in the top 40 metal and rock chart. However, when asked about being a female in a pre-dominantly male genre, Patsy frankly responds with: “I don’t give a shit. I literally don’t give a shit.”

The “don’t give a shit” attitude is reflected within the band. Ed explained: “We always had the mentality that if people like it then that’s fantastic, but if people don’t then they can fuck off.”

Having only been in the scene for a short time, Patsy realistically predicts: “I imagine that we will definitely face some sexism, in which case I’d probably throw some shit back at them, cause I don’t give a shit.”

“I was a freelance makeup artist from age of 18,

I’m used to having to prove myself all the time.”

Raised as a Buddhist and having attended two Christian schools, Patsy does not have the “greatest relationship” with religion. Being told what to do was not appealing, because “the alternative is I’m going to burn in hell.” She bluntly said: “I don’t give a shit what you do with your life, just don’t tell me what to do with mine.”

Patsy clarified she’s not a religious person, before revealing a fascination for biblical stories and their “pillars of culture”.

The religious poem Dante’s Inferno had lyrical influence on a few of their songs. ‘Existence is Futile’ is based on the opinion of immortal beings on humans. She asked: “Do they think we’re being petty, are they playing a game with us or do they not give a shit?”

Succubus was a monumental song for the band, both lyrically and musically. Written from the perspective of a female demon, the song describes her taking hold of someone, “basically fucking about with their mind”.

It also explores how mental illnesses were seen as demons, and the sufferers were thought to be possessed. Patsy revealed she suffers from anxiety, and the song acted as a personification to help her cope with it. She recalled some of the lyrics: “They see me crawling, scratching inside your head. Is the voice not enough, do you need me to scream instead?”

Succubus also defined the genre of Inferno Noir. It turned the originally planned hard rock/blues band, into a heavy metal outfit.

A family photo of the band before releasing their debut album

Heavy metal is a genre riddled with sub-genres. However, asking where Inferno belonged resulted in a cry of “I don’t know”. Patsy explained that this was partly due to the various inspirations of the band members. Her inspirations drew from nu-metal bands such as Machine Head, whereas the guitarist Maro is inspired by death metal. The band does not even come under female fronted metal, Patsy explained, “because that tends to be symphonic”. She ended her unsure response with a burst of nervous laughter.

The future of Inferno Noir had already been mapped out. Patsy repeated an urgent need to perform more live shows, for “experience of how our live set pans out”, and how different audiences react. She honestly admits: “This is all very very new to us, we’re not sure what we’re doing, we’re just trying to make the best of what we can.”