When locals discovered graffiti on external walls of the Lakeview Palace café in Harrow Lodge Park on Sunday morning, they rallied round to paint over the vandalism.
Requests for help were splashed across local social media groups provoking sadness and anger that this had happened “to a great little café run by a lovely family”.
One resident donated ten pounds towards the cost of the paint; another travelled to a local do-it-yourself store to collect it.
Armed with rollers and paint brushes, about eight locals aged 7 to 79 were involved in the clean-up just after 9am. All following government guidelines by wearing masks and social distancing. In just over two hours, the café was repainted.
Local Alison Goldsmith said: “We were unhappy to see what had happened but the upside is that it’s brought the community together. There was a common purpose and everyone involved got to know their neighbours better.”
Café owner Ali Erdogan told us: “We’re proud of Harrow Lodge Park as are the locals, many of whom are customers. I’m extremely grateful to the volunteers who helped to repaint the walls so I could continue serving takeaway food and drink today.”
The vandalism was not limited to the painted walls. Graffiti was also found on the café’s bare brick wall, rubbish and recycling bins, a Havering Council sign and even residents’ walls and fences.
Ten-year-old Daisy Downs who helped with the painting said: “I’m worried the graffiti will happen again so I asked the café owner if a mural could be painted on the walls.”
Ali had already been looking into the idea of a mural and, upon seeing the graffiti, a local artist, also a patron, offered to help: “The café’s such an important community resource, they’re like family to everyone.”
Ali is now considering a competition so that the local community, including children, can design the mural together.
Since opening in 2007, Ali has invested time and money into upgrading the family run Lakeside Café, adding new boats and pedaloes to the lake and an outdoor seating area. A second-storey extension that will provide additional seating with views of the lake was also underway before Covid-19 struck last year.