Do you have a coronavirus story to tell SE London? Let us know

Woolwich town centre
The pandemic has touched everybody’s lives – we want to hear your stories

We’re delighted and thrilled to announce that Flyover Media, the publisher of 853, has been awarded a grant to help us report on the continuing effects of the coronavirus pandemic in SE London.

The €5,000 grant comes from the European Journalism Covid-19 Support Fund, which has been set up to support independent reporting across the continent.

While the existing regional media outlets covering SE London let reporters go during the pandemic, Flyover – which is funded by over 110 readers of 853 and The Charlton Champion – invested some of this money in bringing freelance reporters on board to talk to people making a difference during the crisis.

We’ve also kept up our original reporting and photography – scrutinising what people in power are doing, asking questions and getting out and about, while other outlets have been scraping items from Twitter or press releases. We’re also transparent about who writes for us.

This work has now been recognised with the award. We join organisations in Manchester, Leeds and Portsmouth, among others, as British recipients of this money.

We wouldn’t have got to this point without continued help from our readers – if you contribute to 853, thank you. And if you’d like to be part of our continued success, please sign up today, via Steady or PressPatron.

Now we need your stories

This is where 853’s readers come in. We have a heap of ideas for stories – but we’d also like to hear about what you have been doing during the pandemic, because your ideas are probably better:

  • Perhaps you are part of a volunteer effort (like borough volunteer hubs, a mutual aid group, a street WhatsApp group or a local/national charity) who have helped to support the community or key workers during the crisis. Has it changed your relationship with your neighbours?
  • Maybe you run a business that had to adapt to the lockdown – a pub switched to takeouts or deliveries, or a food business that has had to start coming out to its customers instead. Or perhaps you kept going as people shop local.
  • We’d love to hear from you if you are a key worker – in the NHS, care homes, schools, transport, retail, delivery or other essential services. Anonymity is an option if you’ve an important story to tell.
  • Have you or your business been left behind by government support schemes? You might be a freelance worker who has fallen through the cracks, for example.
  • Or maybe you or a loved one have had the virus and want to tell your story, or talk about someone you have lost.

The only stipulation is that there’s a strong connection with the boroughs of Greenwich, Lewisham or Bexley – a slightly larger area than we’d normally cover. We can blur the boundaries a little bit if the story is interesting enough and we think our readers will identify with the subject and location. We’ve got a lot of pieces coming for Lewisham already, so topics in Greenwich or Bexley would be particularly appreciated – especially in the south or east of Greenwich borough, where our coverage has always been a little weaker. We’d also appreciate stories about people and communities who are under-represented in the media.

Please get in contact at tell853something[at] We can’t guarantee a response to all emails, but all are appreciated. This project will last to the end of the autumn, so it may be a while before we can cover your story.

Who’s been writing the stories so far?

We’re delighted to have been joined by Tom Bull, the former local democracy reporter for Greenwich and Bexley; and Emily Finch, a former reporter for the Islington Tribune, who have been writing stories for us.

Tom was travelling in Belize when the pandemic hit and managed to get a flight out before England went into lockdown. So far he’s written about Greenwich and Bexley Community Hospice, how Blackheath’s Age Exchange charity has been changed by lockdown and the remarkable work of a Charlton cafe owner making meals for the vulnerable at the height of the crisis.

Emily’s work on the Tribune helped it win a prestigious industry award last month. Now she’s freelancing, and has covered how musicians have had to adapt, and community efforts to make facemasks for key workers.

We’ve also been joined by Nikki Spencer, who has contributed today’s story on the Ladywell props company making charity T-shirts, and we’ll have more new names who will be writing for us over the coming weeks. Site editor Darryl Chamberlain (that’s me) will be co-ordinating and editing the stories as well as trying to keep up with what else is happening. While we’ve got lot of people on board already, if you’re an experienced news reporter who lives in Greenwich, Bexley or Lewisham who would like to contribute, please get in touch.

Why did we go for the grant?

853 has just one part-time reporter/editor (that’s me, Darryl). We talk to lots of people, but rarely have the time to actually sit down and interview them. In the first few weeks of the coronavirus crisis, it became apparent that there was very little reporting of community initiatives – so Tom Bull came on board to help out. We published the Old Cottage Cafe story two weeks into the lockdown, and we’ve kept going since then.

We’re very grateful to the European Journalism Covid-19 Support Fund for its support. We and other independent news organisations have been left out of the government’s “All in, altogether” ad campaign created to support outlets owned by large newspaper groups, such as the News Shopper, which is published by Newsquest, a US-owned company which made £108m last year and has aggressively cut its newsrooms to a skeleton staff. It has even stopped producing its Greenwich and Lewisham print editions – despite taking the government ad money – which shows just what our communities mean to Newsquest.

We’re proud of our patch of London. So the grant means that while others have cut back, we can tell local people’s stories during this time – just like local papers used to do. We’ve actually been so busy that it’s taken us a few weeks to get around to announcing the grant.

Other outlets supported by the fund include the West Leeds Dispatch (which is using the money to go into print), Portsmouth’s Star & Crescent, the Manchester Meteor and ViewDigital, a social affairs publisher in Northern Ireland. A number of freelance projects around Europe are also being supported along with a plethora of other outlets. We’re proud to be listed among them and are looking forward to seeing what they do.

853 produces public interest journalism for Greenwich and SE London and is part-funded by its readers. If you would like to help keep it running, become a member:

  • Join us on Steady at – donate monthly amounts in pounds
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Thank you for your support – the site would not exist without it.