Woman tours in ice cream van to talk about grief

An artist known for tackling taboo subjects has planned a UK summer tour in a colourful ice cream van to help destigmatise mental health

Annie Nicholson – a.k.a the Fandangoe Kid – intends to dish out ice cream while having conversations about grief during Covid. Her colourful mobile installation – dubbed The Fandangoe Whip – hopes to encourage people to chat by using the comforting and familiar icon of an ice-cream van to open conversations about our collective mental health. 

“Grief is a part of life and one that comes to us all,” says Annie. “The sooner we find ways in which we can start to share this, the less overwhelming I believe the world will be.” 

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Having lost most of her close family in an accident in New York in 2011, Annie has used the past few years publicly exploring the issue of grief and how we learn to live with it. The idea of the Fandangoe Whip was initially conceived in 2020 as a means to mark the 10-year anniversary of her loss, and intended to take place in New York. 

As the project – and the pandemic – developed however, it became clear that the concept of a touring mobile installation beginning in the UK and moving on to NYC in 2022 would be more appropriate, given the far-reaching impact of Covid-19 on our nation’s mental health. 

“The Whip is underpinned by a decade of my own experience in working with mental health and grief, and a deep understanding of the conditions needed to create a safe space for storytelling and sharing thoughts on such sensitive topics,” she says. “The idea of a mobile project appealed because of its capacity to reach the heart of communities across the country, and eventually across the world.” 

The Fandangoe Whip has been developed in collaboration with arts producer Sarah Toplis, with the backing of a combination of artistic and institutional partnerships, and the Mayor of London’s backed Crowdfunder, Make London. 

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The artist has worked with young people and marginalised communities in inner-city London for many years and has actively set out to create an environment that will reach those who don’t feel comfortable going into galleries and institutions, as well as those who may be reluctant to talk about difficult subjects such as grief and mental health. 

How does the van work?

Because the ice cream van is recognised as a fun, safe space across ages and cultural boundaries, Annie believes it makes an ideal platform to engage diverse audiences on the subject of trauma as we emerge from the pandemic. 

Visitors can interact with the Fandangoe Whip in a number of ways – you can pop by simply for an ice cream and a chat, sign up for a talk or workshop, and stick around to share your own experiences of grief and mental health. 

“It’s my belief that we need this work now more than ever, as we come through and process this severely painful and disruptive year,” she says. “We have all experienced a loss of some sort this past year, whether it is a physical loss of loved ones or a loss of lifestyle and routine, or both. How have we survived lockdown? How are we processing the grief of all of those we have lost? And how can we do this together?” 

Where can you find the ice cream van?

Beginning in Hackney, east London, the Fandangoe Whip will tour the UK throughout the summer and autumn, working with a number of partners and mental health specialists to offer a creative programme of workshops and events devised exclusively for this immersive public artwork. 

Confirmed destinations so far include a launch at A Portuguese Love Affair in Hackney (with whom the artist has collaborated on a range of ice cream flavours), Metal in Southend and Heart of Glass in St Helens, with plans in the pipeline for appearances in Scotland, Liverpool, Manchester and Margate. 

The Fandangoe Whip is scheduled to be part of the London Design Festival in September, as well as the Canary Wharf World Mental Health programme 2021, and a number of other festival appearances are also likely. 

To find out more, visit


The top 5 alternatives to plastic

It’s in our oceans, it’s in our food, and now it’s even in our bodies. Plastic pollution is a growing problem for life on earth, taking hundreds of years to decompose. But the good news is there are alternatives out there to replace this damaging material. 

Innovators from around the world are developing alternatives to plastic that can biodegrade or even be eaten. If we spread awareness of these better options and encourage companies to adopt them, perhaps we can hope for a plastic-free future.

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1. Sea life to shelf life

Chitin is the natural material that makes up parts of shellfish, as well as some insects, fungi and fish. Like plastic, it’s pliable, resilient and quite tough. According to biotechnology company Cuantec, this makes it ideal to produce a fully compostable alternative to plastic. The company’s researchers hope they can extract chitin from food waste to develop a world-changing material that we can package food in to extend its shelf life. Find out more

2. Sprouting with seeds

One beautiful alternative to plastic is seed paper. Quite simply, this material is made from recycled, post-consumer paper packed with seeds. When disposed of, the paper easily decomposes, leaving the seeds to sprout into herbs, vegetables and flowers. You can buy seed paper online from a number of different companies or simply make your own. Find out more about how it works

3. Plant power

In London, a team of designers, chemists, engineers and entrepreneurs are working hard to develop another plastic alternative made from organic materials. Using plants and seaweed, they’re creating a durable casing like plastic which decomposes in up to six weeks. Or, if you’re feeling peckish, you can also eat it! The sustainable packaging startup, Notpla, makes the material from seaweed farmed in northern France. It is dried, ground down into powder, and transformed into a thick fluid, before being dried into a plastic-like substance. Find out more

[Read More: Madrid to plant ‘forest ring’ around city]

4. Carbon extraction

The fashion industry is the biggest contributor to microfibre pollution. To combat that, a startup funded by H&M, Fairbrics, is extracting greenhouse gas emissions from the atmosphere and transforming it into pellets and yarn to make polyester. Such fabrics are usually made from petroleum and emit a huge amount of CO2, so this would be the first synthetic fibre with a net-positive impact on the climate crisis. Find out more

5. Inspiration from nature

Turkish startup Biolive uses naturally abundant olive seeds to create a range of bioplastic granules that can decompose in a year. The material shares many properties with fossil fuel-based plastic, making it an ideal alternative for food packaging. Not only is it better for the planet, it is also better for profits, reducing production costs by up to 90 per cent according to the startup. Find out more


What it takes to be a serial fundraiser

Des Lally, from Brecon in Wales, is a serial fundraiser. But he doesn’t like to be called one. 

The 46-year-old once walked southern Britain’s highest mountain, Pen y Fan, 365 times in a year. Now, he’s looking to peak again by ascending five mountains, in five countries, across three days – all to raise money and awareness for Help for Heroes and Cancer Research UK.

Des hopes to climb the highest mountains in Wales, Scotland, England, Northern Ireland and Ireland in just 72 hours, in a test of endurance requiring an overall ascent of more than 5km, a road trip in excess of 1,000 miles, and two sea crossings.

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The 46-year-old mortgage broker – who was recently named the South Wales Evening Post Community Awards’ fundraiser of the year – plans to complete the challenge at the end of July, and, although he has not set a fundraising target, he did raise more than £60,000 when he repeatedly scaled Pen y Fan, between 2018 and 2019.

The charities are of personal interest for Des, as both his parents have been treated for cancer and his father served 26 years in the Irish Guards.

“It’s not simply about the fundraising – though that is, obviously, important – but it’s also about continuing to raise awareness of the two charities,” he said. “If anything, they’re both needed now more than ever and, because there are so many other things in the news, it’s easy for us, the general public, to forget about them and the marvellous work they do.

“It’s about giving something to two organisations that help unconditionally and to try to ensure they are able to continue to do so. Please help if you can: together we will all make a difference.”

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Des said he wanted to do something mountain-based and knew of the Three Peaks Challenge. In descending order of height, the five peaks Lally has to scale are Ben Nevis (Scotland), at 1,344 metres; Snowdon/Yr Wyddfa (Wales), 1,085m; Carrauntoohil (Ireland), 1,038m; Scafell Pike (England), 978m; and Northern Ireland’s Slieve Donard, at a ‘mere’ 850m.

“I wouldn’t say I’m a serial fundraiser, I’m just an ordinary guy trying to help others,” he told Smiley News. “As for the qualities of a serial fundraiser, though, all you need is to have a passion for something you believe in. 

“The thing that keeps me going is those who have had cancer, those who have got cancer, and those who have suffered injury both physically and mentally through their service in the armed forces.”

To donate to Des Lally’s 5 Mountains, 5 Countries, 3 Days challenge, visit Follow Des Lally’s journey on Twitter. Or find out more about Help For Heroes charity


7 creative ways businesses are giving back

As more people do their bit to protect the planet and help others live happier and healthier lives, it seems companies understand the importance of this, too.

For businesses in 2021, simply being one that makes money isn’t enough. Now, there’s a responsibility to be conscious about how you operate. Why? Because more people are likely to spend money if you have an ethical and sustainable operation, as well as consider the needs of community and society. 

With that in mind, we’ve highlighted the companies who are doing their bit to give back, in different ways. 

1. Socks that save endangered animals

Lucy Jeffrey is the founder of Bare Kind, where she designs and sells bamboo socks. The company gives people the opportunity to contribute towards saving the planet with every purchase by donating 10% of all profits to a charity that saves the animal on the sock. They currently have 10 designs and support 10 charities from bees to whales, hedgehogs to orangutans. With the orangutan socks alone, since January 2021, they have protected 250 acres of tropical forest for the year. 

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2. Helping to end period poverty in Ghana

Wiley’s Finest UK, a sustainable fish oils company, has partnered with OrganiCup to provide women and girls in Ghana menstrual cups in order to combat period poverty. This is alongside the great work they’re doing with their School In A Bag initiative. A study found 95% of girls in rural areas of Ghana reported missing school during their periods. Its partnership with OrganiCup means 400 menstrual cups will be shipped to Ghana to be distributed. 

3. Giving 100% of company profits to educational charities

Tom McLoughlin is the founder of SEO Travel, a digital marketing agency specialising in SEO, PR, web design for travel businesses. With Covid having such a huge impact on the industry and many companies cutting back on their overheads, Tom recently decided to donate 100% of the company’s profits to charity going forward. In April 2021, SEO Travel changed its business model to give away all of the profit it makes to educational charities. 

4. Donating food, drinks and essentials to those in need

Approved Food is a Yorkshire-based online surplus food and drink retailer that specialises in products that would otherwise go to waste. The company has donated food, drinks, household essentials and pet food worth thousands of pounds this year alone. For example, when Batley Food Bank’s shelves ran dry and the charity was in danger of folding, Approved Food donated a van full of goods to keep the food bank going. And during lockdown, Approved Food teamed up with two other Yorkshire businesses to distribute more than 11,000 bottles of Yazoo flavoured milk and 2.500 toilet rolls to food banks around Yorkshire.

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5. Supporting NHS volunteers and staff

Deliveroo has donated 3,321 meal deals to Leeds Hospitals Charity to support the volunteers at the hospitals and the Elland Road vaccination centre in Leeds. Volunteers stationed at Elland Road stadium received deliveries twice a week, complete with a range of sandwiches, snacks, and drinks to keep them going during their long shifts.

And another company – skincare brand Nursem – donates a month’s supply of hand care to an NHS nurse or midwife for every product sold. The pledge has helped over 251,000 nurses across the UK to date.

6. Providing underwear to vulnerable women

Y.O.U Underwear sells ethical underwear for men, women and girls that makes a difference. They operate on a ‘Buy-One-Give-Two’ promise – this means for every item from its core collection bought, they donate two pairs of underwear to vulnerable women and girls across the UK and Africa. So far, the company has donated over 16,000 pairs of underwear. 

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7. Supporting the community

RJC Plant Services Ltd is nestled in the small rural village of Church Fenton, North Yorkshire. The team has played a large role in the community in the past few years – for example, donating 50 afternoon teas from local deli to 50 elderly residents of Church Fenton. As a team of dog lovers, in April 2021 they wanted to do something to support the animal charities that were facing increasing demands on their services but reduction in donations as the pandemic continued. They identified two local charities – Miss Mollies Pet Rescue based in Harrogate and Woodhaven Second Chance in South Milford – to support and purchased 1000 meals to donate to them. They hand delivered the food, along with sleeping blankets donated by the team and local community.  


Why Reclaim Pride is important for queer liberation

Thousands of people from the LGBT+ community and their allies recently joined broadcaster and campaigner Peter Tatchell for a reinvigorated version of Pride in London. This first-ever event, Reclaim Pride, called for leaders to strengthen human rights and end persecution for the LGBT+ community worldwide.

After making their way from Parliament Square to Whitehall, participants held a socially-distanced queer picnic in Hyde Park on Saturday 24 July, where they celebrated LGBT+ culture with food, drink and music. 

Tatchell’s human rights nonprofit, the Peter Tatchell Foundation, organised the event to replace Pride in London, which was postponed to 11 September.

The event launched with five main aims: banning LGBT+ conversion therapy, reforming the Gender Recognition Act, offering a safe haven for LGBT+ refugees, decriminalising LGBT+ people worldwide, and showing solidarity with Black Lives Matter.

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We want to make Pride, once again, an event where our on-going demands for LGBTI+ liberation can be seen and heard,” says Tatchell.

A proud tradition of equality

Tatchell hopes Reclaim Pride will return Pride to its roots, something he believes is missing in the mainstream event. “Reclaim Pride took us back to the original roots of Pride, as both a celebration and a protest,” he says. “I was so happy to be part of a Pride that echoed the values and ideals of the first UK Pride in 1972. It felt authentic.”

Following the Stonewall Riots in the US, the first ever Pride events were held in Chicago, New York City, Los Angeles, and San Francisco to mark Stonewall’s anniversary. Two years later, it came to London for the riots’ third anniversary. 

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Since the first ever Pride in London, attended by around 2,000 people, the event has grown to see hundreds of thousands marching through London’s streets. In recent years, it has featured branded floats sponsored by the likes of Barclays Bank, ASDA and CitiBank.

Reclaim Pride has different sources of funding. In addition to the Peter Tatchell Foundation, its sponsors include UK Black Pride, Diva magazine, Lesbian Visibility Week, London Trans Pride, and Stand Up To LGBTQ+ Hate Crime, among others.

To support the Peter Tatchell Foundation campaign for human rights worldwide donate here.

For more information visit


Jiu-jitsu teacher helps kids fulfil their potential

During lockdown when many young people were struggling mentally, one educator in south east England stepped up to maintain a sense of normality for his pupils.

Jiu-jitsu teacher Sam Diplock won a Pride in Medway award in the pandemic, recognising him as a “local hero” for his work building children’s confidence through sport. 

Locals nominated Sam for his dedication to the community of Medway, the most easterly area of Kent. Sam did everything he could to ensure his lessons could continue safely, adhering to social distancing.

“I would mask everyone up and run around like a Ghostbuster with a pack of sprays and wipes on my back while teaching, spraying all the equipment as soon as it had been used,” he says.

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He not only trained his pupils six days a week, but would also spend many seventh days travelling up and down the country attending competitions with them. 

This was tough, but what really pushed him to the limits, he says, was going running every day with two of his trainees who compete on national and European levels. “I ended up actually trying to keep up with the young lads so much that I gave myself a hernia!” he says.

Building resilience in children

Sam loves his work, especially when he sees his pupils developing over time. His lessons help children gain physical strength, but also mental resilience through a number of different types of jiu-jitsu, including Brazilian, Muay Thai and MMA. 

“Brazilian jiu-jitsu is nothing but hard work and perseverance,” he explains, “and I think the earlier in life we learn to work through something hard, the easier it is for us later in life to know when we’ve got to button down and crack on with something.”

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To help children fulfil their potential, Sam has two priorities: keep the lessons fun, but also disciplined. He enjoys getting down to their level, making jokes and chatting about their favourite television series. But when necessary he’ll also put on a stern face. 

Thanks to his teaching style, he’s seen many of his children develop into strong, confident and happy young people. “I’ve had pupils who have gone from being meek and quiet children who wouldn’t say boo to a goose to becoming very confident children, willing to stick up for themselves,” he says.

After being nominated for the 2020 award, he thanked his colleagues for their support and was overjoyed to win. Clearly his passion for teaching is genuine and his comments reflect that: “It’s nice to be recognised. But I never thought I was doing anything overly special. I thought I was just doing something I enjoyed.”


7-year-old eco warrior is a litter-picking hero

A seven-year-old who is passionate about looking after our planet takes it upon himself to clear up the mess left behind by others.

George Goode, from Norwich, is often seen out in his local area collecting litter from the streets and green areas. His friend Ryan, who owns The Sunset Cafe in Norwich, gave him a litter picking stick, and it was this that started George off on his journey. 

He started litter picking in the autumn of 2020 – and now does it most days. “I always see so much litter when I’m out walking my dog and it upsets me,” he says. “I don’t understand why people don’t put their rubbish in the bin and it’s sad that animals can get tangled in the rubbish.

“It’s important to keep the streets and green areas clean as they are for everyone to use. It’s not nice seeing rubbish everywhere. I want to make sure animals don’t get caught in the rubbish or think that it is food.”

[Read More: Sisters to cycle 1010 miles in 10 days]

George says people will stop to talk to him now, meaning he’s managed to meet more people in his local area. “I like to chat, so it’s nice,” he says. When he sees these people out and about, he tells them what he’s doing and how important he feels it is to collect litter. 

And, if he doesn’t have a stick in his bag, he’ll try to pick things up and find a bin. 

Now, he’s taking his good deeds one step further by raising money for a small micro sanctuary close to his heart: The Goode Life UK. The charity helps elderly and disabled animals, as well as assisting in the rehoming of needy and disabled cats from around the world.

The young animal lover is keen to not only raise money but also awareness of the plight of overlooked animals and hopes that he can do this by his litter picking challenge.

“As people often stop to speak to me while I’m litter picking, I thought it was a good opportunity to get sponsorship to help the animals,” he says. “As a vegan I think helping animals is a wonderful thing to do but so is keeping our planet clean. The two go hand in hand.”

To find out how you can sponsor George, follow him on Instagram @georgegoodelife.  


Get lunch in fully recyclable packaging at Aldi

Eating lunch on-the-go is sometimes a necessity, especially if you’re nipping out quickly on your break from work. But many easy lunch options are wrapped in single-use plastic. 

That’s why it’s music to our ears that Aldi is set to introduce fully recyclable sandwich packaging as part of a trial with its supplier Greencore. 

The UK’s fifth largest supermarket is trialling a new sandwich box made from recyclable cardboard with a paper-lined film, rather than the plastic equivalent which is used in most sandwich packaging. The new packaging doesn’t impact shelf life and is being trialled on two sandwich products across a number of stores from September. 

[Read More: 7-year-old eco warrior is a litter picking hero]

If the initiative is introduced across all Aldi sandwiches, this would remove 23.8 million pieces of unrecyclable plastic and 29.8 tonnes of single-use plastic each year.

Richard Gorman, plastics and packaging director at Aldi UK, said: “We are looking at every product we sell to see if there are ways we can remove plastic packaging or replace it with recyclable alternatives.

“The new sandwich packaging maintains the shelf life of the products, while allowing customers to easily recycle the packaging. Food to go is one of our most popular categories and we are confident this initiative will be well received by our customers.”  

[Read More: Apple to support flood relief efforts]

Aldi has been working with its suppliers in recent months to develop innovative ways to reduce avoidable plastics. These include committing to the removal of single-use plastic from all its own-brand tea bags by the end of 2021, as well as removing the outer plastic packaging of its own-brand tea products.

Last year, Aldi pledged to halve the volume of plastic packaging it uses by 2025. This will see it remove 74,000 tonnes of plastic packaging from products over the next four years.

The supermarket, which has been carbon-neutral since January 2019, is also on track to have all own-label products recyclable, reusable or compostable by 2022, and branded products sold at Aldi by 2025.


Madrid to plant huge ‘forest ring’ around city

Madrid intends to create a “green wall” around the city – said to be a 75km urban forest, with nearly half a million trees – in a bid to combat climate change and cut emissions

The “forest ring”, as it’s also been dubbed, will be a forest of trees that can absorb CO2, as well as the heat generated by humans. It intends to help absorb 175,000 tons of CO2 per year.

Trees used will be those that require very little watering and can cope with the local environmental conditions. 

[Read More: Why seaweed is vital in the climate crisis]

“What we want to do is to improve the air quality in the whole city,” Mariano Fuentes, Madrid’s councillor for the environment and urban development told Euro News

“To fight the ‘heat island’ effect that is happening inside the city, to absorb the greenhouse emissions generated by the city, and to connect all the existing forest masses that already exist around the city.”

The “forest ring” has been dubbed “El Bosque Metropolitano” (the Metropolitan Forest) and could be “the largest green infrastructure to be built in Europe in the next decade”. 

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This is just one of the plans made by the city to reduce emissions and fight climate change. Others include more pedestrian zones, bicycle lanes, and restricting private car use in the city centre. 

While the idea sounds great, it’ll take quite a few years before it’s ready and working. Estimates suggest the 600 hectares of land could take 10 years to complete. 

The Spanish capital is already home to two large parks – El Retiro and Casa de Campo – and offers 22.83m2 of green space per inhabitant. But Madrid has also been plagued by poor air quality for years due primarily to its high levels of traffic.

Image credit: Tom Tom / Shutterstock


Sisters to cycle 1010 miles in 10 days

Two sisters are set to cycle 1010 miles in 10 days to raise funds and awareness for epilepsy charity, Jon Shaw Foundation. 

Isabelle and Christina Pettit will set off on their charity endeavour on 8 August, cycling the 1010 miles from Lands’ End to John O Groats, and arriving on 18 August. 

The Jon Shaw Foundation was set up in memory of Jon, who died aged 19 from SUDEP (sudden unexpected death in epilepsy) in June 2019. It aims to support people living with epilepsy and improve the mental health and wellbeing of bereaved siblings. 

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Izzie is the partner of Jon’s eldest brother, Mike, and although the sisters never knew Jon personally, they will be cycling in his honour. The pair will schedule a stop at Crewe, where Jon Shaw grew up and his family operate the charity from. 

“I wanted to help fundraise so we decided to take on the Lands End to John O Groats challenge,” says Izzie. “We were shocked to learn that so many epilepsy sufferers and their families are not informed about the risks of SUDEP and therefore aren’t able to take steps to reduce the risk. It’s vital to increase awareness of this so that young people affected by epilepsy can get access to the information they need to reduce the risk as much as possible.

“I’m really looking forward to the challenge, it’s definitely going to be tough mentally! Getting the legs turning day after day won’t be easy.”

[Read More: Couple to complete all 96 Olympic sports in 17 days]

Keeping a steady pace is going to be key to avoiding burn out during the first days, says Izzie. “Luckily, I have Christina to set the pace and remind me it’s not a one-day race. I hope we get lots of support and people sponsor us, I’d love to think that we had made a difference when we cross the finish line at John O Groats.”

Christina says she’s “both excited and nervous” about the challenge. “I’m really looking forward to riding in so many beautiful parts of the UK, especially Scotland. Although I’m completely comfortable covering 100 miles or more per day, riding the distance more than three or four days in a row is an unknown and difficult to practise for so I’m expecting this to be a tough challenge!”

Izzie is currently training for full distance triathlon which includes a 112-mile cycle on top of swimming and running. Christina has ridden a 300km route and is aiming to complete a 400km ride in preparation, also recently spent a weekend in Wales to practice riding some big climbs.

To support the Isabelle and Christina‘s gallant efforts you can donate via