Tuesday 7 December 2021

Around NW with Aviator Amy Johnson

Flying from Brent

Sadie Kempner and Amanda Epe

Fly Girls Wellness was awarded funding early this year, from the National Lottery's Heritage Wellbeing Fund and delivery partners Brent Museum and Archives,  for the Flying from Brent project. From Autumn 2021, we brought back the amazing story of aviation pioneer Amy Johnson, who was the first woman to fly solo from England to Australia in May 1930. The project delivered activities for both adults and school children.

Through a heritage and wellbeing walk for adults, in September 2021, we walked the pathways Amy would have taken in her time living locally and training at the London Aeroplane Club in Stag Lane. Fifteen history lovers and some flying enthusiasts turned up on a sunny Saturday morning, to walk and talk and connect with people after a period of isolation from the COVID-19 social restrictions. Led by actor and activist Sadie Kempner, we met at Kingsbury Station and walked from Kingsbury to Edgware for the first part of the walk. Sadie, dressed in Amy Johnson flying gear,  had a wealth of information on the life of Amy Johnson and the local De Havilland factory.

Using our route and material,  Philip Grant of Wembley History Society has worked with us to prepare an illustrated self-guided walk document. If you want to follow this walk, "In Amy Johnson's footsteps", and get more depth on the history related to her time in Kingsbury, you can read and download the document from the Brent Archives website here

Heritage and Wellbeing Walk 25/09/21

For part two of the wellbeing walk, we took bus 302 to venture besides the Welsh Harp Reservoir. This was where Amy Johnson met actress Anna Neagle, on the 1st of April 1931, for the launch of the speedboat racing season. Unknown to them then, it would be Anna who played Amy Johnson in a film about her life, ten years later. 

For the younger ones, the Flying from Brent project went into primary schools in October 2021. Starting in Oliver Goldsmith, Kingsbury, children watched a short film on the life of Amy Johnson played by Sadie Kempner, who then appeared in the classroom for an entertaining time tunnel drama. The children loved going back in time, and then were given the task to write letters, as Amy Johnson regularly did to her family. 

Sadie Kempner at Northview School

The next school we moved to was Northview Primary, in the neighbouring district of Neasden. Here Sadie delivered a whole school assembly, acting as Amy Johnson. This was followed up by her directing the pupils to get into character as Amy Johnson, easing them into the creative letter writing. 

The adult audience has found this project to be most inspiring, following comments from feedback forms and on the day of the walk. It brought people together to be active through walking and mentally stimulated, learning about history through an inspiring story. 

We have had fun, and it's been a great learning experience, on this opportunity to write and share local heritage. For the link to our legacy film production visit here: Flying from Brent.