April 22, 2022

Living the Cheapskate life: podcaster Helena Wadia on Tempur pillows, Turkish food and the best listens for a long commute

Helena Wadia is a multimedia journalist and presenter, who has worked with names including the Evening Standard, NME, BBC, Channel 5 News, London Live and more. She is the co-host of Media Storm, produced by The Guilty Feminist, an investigative journalism podcast that puts people with lived experience at the centre of reporting.

Where do you rest your head?

In Dalston, on my new Tempur pillow. (That really has nothing to do with anything other than it’s really got rid of my neck pain and I want them to send me free stuff). I grew up in Sutton (which I will maintain is - despite protestations from friends who grew up on the tube map - firmly in London) but I find myself referring to Dalston as ‘home’ more and more. 

What’s something amazing about your area that only the locals know about?

I love the restaurant Azizye on Stoke Newington Road - hidden underneath a mosque, serving amazing halal Turkish food. Prices are great and portions are huge. It’s even better if you’re lucky enough to sit in the special booths with floor seating, surrounded by comfy cushions. It’s also good for meat-eaters and vegetarians, and the pide (Turkish pizza) is unreal.

Where are your favourite free or cheap places to visit in the city?

I love going swimming in London Fields Lido, which costs just over a fiver - especially when the sun is out, but I’ve recently forced myself to jump in during the cooler days too. I love seeing the diversity of bodies there - it reminds me that swimming is for everyone, and should be accessible to anyone.

In the evenings, as a huge indie music fan, I head over to Rough Trade East, which is not only an amazing record store, but has killer in-store live performances, many of which are free - or cost the price of the album from that artist. Plus, you can head over a little early and browse market stalls and vintage shops in Brick Lane - one of my other favourite free activities. 

What would your perfect no-spend London day involve?

Even during the lockdowns when it was one of the only things we could do, I am still not a huge fan of walking. However, mix walking with a G&T in a can and some of East London’s best spaces and my mind was swiftly changed. I would start by going to Broadway Market and getting as many free samples as possible - even if you don’t buy anything there it’s always a great atmosphere.

I’d then walk along Regent’s Canal (first G&T) and head to Victoria Park and have a picnic (second and third G&T). Vicky Park is so big, and I love going to a different part each time - though I have to say my favourite area is the where the Chinese Pagoda is, as I have a great memory of a friend jumping out from behind it to surprise me on my birthday, dressed as a character from Monsters Inc (don’t ask).  

Are there any independent businesses that you’d like to shout about?

I am obsessed with Gini Bean, an artist and creator who makes handmade jewellery and embroidered, ethical clothing with a feminist message. Gini has recently moved back to London and can be found on loads of different markets - including in Spitalfields, Stoke Newington and more. 

I also love Ria Beauty in the Dalston Kingsland shopping centre - a well-priced, friendly beauty bar, and the only people I let touch my eyebrows.

Stella's makes some of the best vegan food I've ever eaten - it's a Malaysian cuisine, and I still dream about their mock Beef Rendang. They've done delivery and several markets and pop-ups - right now they're on the hunt for a new pop-up space so make sure you follow them on Instagram to see where it will be!

As a podcaster, are there any podcasts you recommend for the commute?

In my opinion, commuting is peak podcast listening time! (We purposefully set Media Storm episodes to come out at 6am so people can listen on their commutes). I personally like a news-ier vibe in the mornings, so I like The Slow Newscast from Tortoise -  in a fast-paced news environment, the stories that really matter can get missed, in favour of desperation for clicks and likes - but podcasts like The Slow Newscast take their time to focus in on investigations, making it a much more interesting listen.

I also recommend The Log Books, which highlights the too often untold stories from LGBTQ+ history, as noted by volunteers at the helpline Switchboard. It’s really moving, but can also be really funny too, and helpful. I’m also a huge fan of Esther Perel, who does both Where Should We Begin? (which is basically like listening in to couple’s therapy) and How’s Work? (which focuses on the hard conversations we’re afraid to have in our jobs). I always come out of an episode feeling like I’ve got some good advice to kick start my day with. 

If you were the Mayor of London for the day, what would you change about the city?

Sometimes I have to commute to work using the Circle Line and every time I do it fills me with an unparalleled amount of anger. Why do they only come every 10 minutes? Why do they say they come every 10 minutes, but they actually come every 25 minutes or never at all? Why are there never-ending delays on that line? Why does it stop, every time without fail, at Gloucester Road for a full five minutes? I would make the Circle Line actually run, so I can maybe one day get into work without screaming inside. 

What do you think needs to be done to make London’s streets safer for women?

While I applaud initiatives such as Strut Safe, the hotline set up to help women feel safe walking home at night, I am always wary about positioning these initiatives as the solution. These initiatives are set up to try and alleviate a problem, but the reality is, they’re a band aid over a bullet hole. Nothing will change until we educate everyone - but especially men and boys - about the rape culture pyramid, how the more violent behaviours against women start with a lack of consent, catcalling, and ‘locker room banter’.

More campaigns going into London’s schools - like Schools Consent Project - is what I ultimately think will make women safer. I was pleased to see the recent Have A Word campaign from the Mayor of London, which positions men as the problem and solution, rather than calling on women and other marginalised genders to change their behaviour. 

Are there any community centres or charities doing incredible work in London that you’d like to spread the word about?

Say It Loud Club - a charity that supports LGBTQ+ refugees and asylum seekers to gain the right to live freely in the UK.

Made in Hackney - fully vegan community cookery school and charity which aims to tackle health inequalities and food access.

STUC: Stammerers Through University Consultancy - an initiative which aims to support student and staff in higher education who stammer, set up by Londoner Claire Maillet. 

Free Self-Defence Classes for Trans People - presenter and activist Charlie Craggs is still fundraising in order to be able to set up these classes for transgender people, after she was spat on on the London Underground, so every little helps in order to make this happen! 

In three words, what makes someone a Londoner?

Hates circle line.

Listen to Helena's podcast, Media Storm, here, and follow her on Twitter here

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