Thursday 28 November 2013


Life can often feel like a treadmill, of work, eat, sleep, on an endless loop. It's easy to get stuck into a routine, and through lack of time or money, or both, lose sight of the world of possibilities out there. So I'm always impressed when I hear stories of people who find the energy to campaign and make things happen. And as I've discovered, there is no shortage of  drive and commitment among locals to make a difference on so many fronts, from the cinema and library campaigns, to Transition Town, and the future of Crystal Palace Park.

After studying International Relations (with Russian, Portuguese and Spanish) at LSE, Emma Astles joined the rat race, becoming a metals trader in the city. Though no doubt a lucrative position, she found it unfulfilling, and eventually embarked on a trip to Guatamala, to do voluntary work. From there she went on to northern Brazil, where she set up and ran a school in a notorious favela called Mata Escura (Dark Forest), a world away from Thornton Heath, where she grew up. The school is part of a charity, Grandmother Clara's Dream,  that Emma set up, to provide a safe place for local children, in an environment that was anything but safe. In an area of such poverty, a cook is also employed to provide regular meals for the children. 
After 3 years, Emma returned to London, and at first resumed her work in the city, but quickly realised she needed to work for herself, and preferably doing something related to children. And so in April this year, she opened a toyshop. The long term aim, once the business becomes profitable is for a proportion of the those profits to go towards the charity. The shop at 83 Church Road feels very much like an old fashioned toyshop, selling things that even I would recognise. Rather than simply stocking the biggest brand names, Emma tries to source interesting and unusual products from small suppliers. Some items, including cards, clothing and bunting are locally made, and being Crystal Palace, you will find plenty of dinosaur related merchandise.
Emma is proud to be among the Triangle's independent traders, particularly those along Church Road, and loves the local buzz. However, she's less keen on the one way traffic that races past the shop all day. The jolly green parrot which gives the shop its name is certainly a bright and welcome addition to the street, though sadly I photographed it before the lovely christmas decorations were installed. But then a local toyshop isn't just for Christmas after all.

Emma Astles
83 Church Road
020 8653 1070


  1. Thank you so much for this great piece on Papagaio and my daughter, Emma.The photos are fantastic. Very kind of you. Best wishes, Val Astles

  2. Thank you so much for this enlightening yarn on my wonderful friend, Gemma Attlee. You will be glad to know that the shop is still going strong, despite the frequent missteps of the lady owner.