Meet My London’s newest team members

One city, 32 boroughs and nine million people all with a story to share.

My London is the site that tells those stories, uncovering the issues that matter to communities across this diverse and dynamic place.

This year we’re telling more of those stories than ever before. The team has doubled in size since January and will soon have 55 journalists covering every part of this great city.

So what can you expect from us? Brilliant stories, the latest breaking news and investigations alongside sharply written and entertaining lifestyle, showbiz and what’s on content.

We have reporters assigned to every borough and want to hear stories from your street. You can find out who’s covering your patch in the reporter profiles below.

London is a diverse place with people from a wide range of backgrounds and different perspectives. We are committed to uncovering untold stories and investigating under-reported issues.

Got a story? We want to hear from you….

Reemul Balla

Reemul is from East London and joined us in January

REEMUL joined the team in January as a trainee reporter. From East London, he studied History and French at Durham University, then did a film studies masters at UCL. He’s also written for The Guardian.

Covers Havering, Barking and Dagenham and Redbridge

Highlights so far “The piece I’m proudest of is this story on two young boys from Seven Kings who raised almost £100,000 to help with the humanitarian crisis in Yemen through making lemonade.

“It showcases a couple of young lads and their father doing something proactive for something they have no personal attachment towards but that they wanted to raise awareness of. It was lovely speaking to the parents and hearing their story.”

You can send a story to Reemul by emailingreemul.balla@reachplc.com

Whelan Barzey

Whelan lives in West London and joined us in February

WHELAN joined My London in February and has previously written for Empire, Time Out London, The BFI, BAFTA and hosted podcasts and interviews for The British Blacklist. He has a journalism degree from Brunel University in London.

Covers Harrow, Brent and Westminster. He also specialises in culture, community and “the amazing people and areas of London that you don’t see in the news”.

According to him… “You won’t find a better defender in West London.”

Highlights so far “It has been an honour to play a part in telling the stories of so many great individuals and their causes in my short time at My London.

“With that being said, the story that I have the strongest connection with is this one about three talented guys from West London and the mission of their platform (Wears My TV) to make sure that ‘the streets’ are represented and fairly compensated in the fashion industry.

“It represents everything people from where I’m from embody; resourcefulness, resilience and NEVER needing to seek outside validation. We play by our own rules!”

You can send a story to Whelan by emailing whelan.barzey@reachplc.com

Rafi Benady

Rafi has lived in London his whole life

RAFI graduated from Goldsmith’s, University of London in 2018 with a degree in education, culture, and society.

He interned with the South London Press, and has spent three months covering all things Essex, for our sister website, Essex Live.

As a life-long Londoner, Rafi is keen on reporting on the diversity, creativity and criminality of the world’s greatest city.

Covers Bexley, Bromley and Greenwich

Highlights so far In his first couple of weeks on the team Rafi told the extraordinary story of Themba Cabeka.

Stowaway Themba had to have his leg amputated and spent six months in a coma after falling from a jumbo jet as the plane landed at Heathrow Airport, having spent 11 hours hidden in the wheel on a flght from South Africa.

You can send a story to Rafi by emailing rafi.benady@reachplc.com

Ella Bennett

Ella Bennett worked for the Mirror and Star before joining us

ELLA studied English at the University of Southampton, then completed an NCTJ with PA Training. She interned at The Mirror and Daily Star for period in the summer of 2020, before joining My London as a trainee reporter.

Covers Hammersmith and Fulham, the West End and Kensington and Chelsea

Highlights so far “The work I am most proud of are the articles addressing sexual harassment women face in London. I have written on this very important topic multiple times, such as when I spoke to a great start up that offers women a place to report all forms of harassment on London transport, or when I spoke to London women about how they were feeling after the death of Sarah Everard.

“These issues are something I am very passionate about shining light on, and hope to continue doing.”

You can send a story to Ella by emailing ella.bennett@reachplc.com

Hayley Clarke

Hayley is passionate about stories that shine a light on issues affecting children

HAYLEY also joined us as a trainee reporter in January after a career as a primary school teacher. She is based in North London.

Covers Hackney, Camden and Islington. Hayley is passionate about education and shining a light on children’s issues.

Highlights “The story I have been proudest of writing so far was this feature which gives a deep insight into life for those who lived through the Aids epidemic, and the lasting effects it has had on the lives of the survivors.

“It was a true privilege to be trusted to tell Chris and Lawrence’s story. It also looked at what still needs to change in terms of breaking down the stigma surrounding HIV and Aids, and the changes needed in the fight for LGBT+ rights, something I am passionate about helping to change.”

You can send a story to Hayley by emailing hayley.clarke@reachplc.com

Blathnaid Corless

Blathnaid moved from Kildare, Ireland to London in September 2020

BLATHNAID moved to London from Kildare, Ireland last September after studying law at university. She joined My London in March after completing her journalism qualifications and now lives in Vauxhall.

Covers Croydon, Sutton and Merton

Highlights so far “The story I have been most proud of writing so far was this piece interviewing local residents in Newham the morning after the murder of 14-year-old Fares Maatou on April 26.

“Some of them were in tears after watching the tragic incident unfold, and one of the people I spoke to was the mother of a boy who went to school with Fares and who was very worried for her own child’s safety following the stabbing which had occurred in broad daylight.”

You can send a story to Blathnaid by emailing blathnaid.corless@reachplc.com

Isabella D’Emilio

ISABELLA has worked at Grazia magazine and has also written for the Metro. She is one of the newest members of the team.

Covers Society, real life, lifestyle, arts, culture and news. A North Londoner who could give a taxi driver a run for his money on The Knowledge, she is curious about uncovering and telling stories about real lives and people across the city.

Highlights so far “I’ve really enjoyed writing about community issues affecting Londoners as they get back to normal life after the pandemic.

“I interviewed the owner of a Black hair salon in North West London about Government guidelines on restricted hair appointments, that made it impossible for Afro hairdressers to carry out certain treatments and styles like braiding and cornrows that can take up to six hours.

“It was really interesting to understand the perspectives of different communities as the city gets back to normal and what that will mean for some businesses.”

You can send a story to Issy by emailing isabella.demilio@reachplc.com

Zak Garner-Purkis

Zak is the website’s first ever chief reporter

ZAK is chief reporter – a role that’s new to My London.

He has spent the last three years leading investigations at Construction News. Zak’s projects include an undercover slave labour expose with the BBC, a Financial Times report which uncovered a sexual assault scandal and an international investigation into worker deaths on the world’s biggest airport with Architects’ Journal.

Zak was long-listed for the Orwell Prize for Journalism in 2020, highly commended at the 2020 British Journalism Awards and a finalist for the 2019 BJAs.

Highlights so far “The story I’ve been most proud of so far at My London was this one which gave a voice to students affected by sexual harassment and abuse.

“The rape culture allegations about the education sector, which exploded earlier this year, have been really distrurbing and the situation will only be improved through engagement with students.

“In this case that didn’t seem to be happening. Journalism is at its best when it enables groups who have been silenced the chance to speak. It’s hard to think of a clearer example of this than teenage victims of sexual abuse who feel let down by the people who were supposed to protect them. ”

You can send a story, tip off or idea for an investigation to Zak by emailing zak.garnerpurkis@reachplc.com

Neha Gohil

Neha, from Ealing, wants to shine a light on under-represented communities

NEHA graduated from the University of Warwick in 2020 with a degree in history and politics. She has appeared on BBC Radio 5 and BBC Asian Network debating current affairs and was deputy editor of the award-winning student newspaper, The Boar. Neha has had bylines in The Financial Times, The Metro and Ealing Times. She lives in Ealing.

Covers Ealing, Hounslow and Hillingdon. As a British-Indian, Neha wants to ensure the media provides a voice for the under-represented.

Highlights so far “The story I am most proud of is the feature I wrote on Dorothy, a women’s rights activist from Southall who died on International Women’s Day this year from cancer.

“Dorothy overcame unimaginable obstacles and her story is symptomatic of the difficulties faced by migrant women across the country.

“She lived with a ‘constant’ fear of deportation and lived in extreme poverty but was still able to advocate for the rights of women in the UK. Her story is incredibly moving and she was a privilege to write about.”

You can send a story to Neha by emailing neha.gohil@reachplc.com

Ruby Gregory

Ruby is one of My London’s two community reporters whose role involves writing about under-reported communities in London

RUBY graduated from the University of Leicester in 2019 with a degree in Film and Visual Arts. She has worked for The Brixton Blog and Bugle and as a researcher for BBC Radio 4 before joining the team as a community reporter.

Covers South London, and diverse communities. Ruby enjoys immersing herself in different cultures and hopes she can be a voice for underrepresented communities.

Highlights so far “The story I’m most proud of so far has to be my Brixton ’81 piece which asked three people about their memories of the Brixton Uprising from 40 years ago.

“It was really important to portray these stories exactly how they were and I loved speaking to a variety of people from the area. I am really passionate about telling the stories of social and racial injustice and the interview with Anthony, who experienced his first stop and search aged 12, has stayed with me ever since.”

You can send a story to Ruby by emailing ruby.gregory@reachplc.com

Tom Haynes

TOM graduated from King’s College London in 2018 with a degree in English and French, after which he worked as an assistant editor at The Tab UK. He has had bylines in VICE, i-D and The Daily Mirror and joined My London in January 2021.

Covers Bexley, Greenwich and Bromley. Tom is also keen to tell the stories of the capital’s LGBTQ+ community.

Highlights so far “The story I am most proud of since joining My London is a story about Andy Sarsby, a barber who died of cancer aged 27, weeks before he was due to open his own barbershop where he intended to give haircutting classes to the homeless. I went to his inquest initially but it was largely concerned with the medical intricacies of his cancer, which wasn’t the full picture of the man Andy was.

“Rather than write the story then and there, I spent a week gaining the trust of Andy’s mother and brother and through their interviews turned the story into a more fitting tribute to him and an example of the kind of reporting that I think makes My London stand out.”

You can send a story to Tom by emailing thomas.haynes@reachplc.com

Anna Highfield

ANNA joined My London in January 2021 after a placement in November. She is based in the lively area of Brick Lane.

Covers Hackney, Camden and Islington.

Highlights so far “I loved writing this story, on a street artist whose East London mural was covered up within hours of him painting it, because it was a great personal insight into local culture in this area. The article dug beneath the surface of something East Londoners will see every day, offering them a deeper insight and understanding into goings-on in their local area.

“My article on the Londoners who are spending their weekends in dustbins because they can’t go wild swimming is also one of my favourites that I have written. This story (based around a small community who had to find alternatives to their wild swimming in lockdown as it is so crucial to their positive mental health) was met with a great response from our audience, who needed a feel-good story in the depths of lockdown and loved hearing about the bizarre antics of the Beckenham Bobbers.”

You can send a story to Anna by emailing anna.highfield@reachplc.com

Claire Hubble

Claire is our Engagement Producer

CLAIRE joined the team as engagement producer in January, working across My London’s social platforms and newsletters.

She has held staff positions at Hearst Magazines and Press Association before going freelance in 2018 while travelling around South East Asia and Australia.

Her work has been published by Vice, Refinery 29, HuffPost, Dazed and Cosmopolitan. She lives in Kennington with a ginger kitten and is on the hunt for South London’s best Bloody Mary.

Highlights so far Claire’s favourite piece since joining our team was this opinion piece she wrote on her least favourite part of London, where “empty show homes and tasteless luxury” are transforming one area of the city beyond recognition.

Got a story for our social media channels? If so, email claire.hubble@reachplc.com

Seren Hughes

Seren did some freelance work while travelling in South Asia prior to joining us in March

SEREN spent six months on a work placement with our sister site Surrey Live while she trained as a journalist. She then joined My London. In the pre-Covid era she wrote a travel blog and did some freelance work while travelling in South Africa.

Covers Ealing, Hounslow and Hillingdon.

Highlights “One of the pieces I’m most proud of so far was this story where I sat down with a homeless woman to speak about her experiences.

“We see homeless people on the streets every day and see all the statistics, but we don’t often hear their individual stories. Ashley’s was inspiring and the simple message of just wanting a decent night’s sleep was really powerful.”

You can send a story to Seren by emailing seren.hughes@reachplc.com

John James

Before joining My London, John worked at our sister site Kent Live

JOHN graduated from the University of Birmingham in 2018 with a degree in English. He completed a masters in broadcast journalism at City University in London in 2019 before working as a multimedia reporter for our sister site Kent Live. John joined the My London team in January.

Covers Enfield, Barnet and Haringey.

Highlights so far On the day pubs reopened John spent the whole day in a Wetherspoons beer garden, documenting for posterity Londoners returning to their locals. Never afraid to put his stomach on the line for a good story, he also bravely reviewed a London takeaway with a one-star food hygiene rating.

In terms of his favourite story so far, he says: “In March, I spoke to educator Christian Foley, a poet turned teacher who works on the front line of London’s youth knife crime epidemic at East London referral units. Christian had a unique perspective on the horrors of knife crime and spoke movingly about the reasons young people carry knives and what needs to be done to prevent the tragic crimes that are sadly all too commonplace in the capital.”

You can send a story to John by emailing john.james@reachplc.com

Ben Kempton

Ben joined us in April and is one of our newest members of the team

BEN has joined us in April as a trainee reporter. He graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2019 with a degree in journalism.

He worked at Culture Trip as an editorial assistant and travel writer for just under two years. He’s also done work experience for The Sunday Time and the Metro.

Having grown up in a small town on the south coast called Lymington, Ben now lives in Haggerston and wants to be a voice for local communities in North East London. Expect to see him out and about in Hackney, Shoreditch and Dalston – he’s hard to miss being 6ft 4 ins tall!

Highlights so far “I’ve only just started but my favourite article so far has been my taste test of steak pies. I love this quirky, fun side of My London’s coverage and was thrilled to be able to get involved with it so soon after starting the job.”

You can send a story to Ben by emailing ben.kempton@reachplc.com

Tim MacFarlan

Tim MacFarlan is a Content Editor for My London

TIM began his career at the News Shopper in South East London and then moved to Mail Online. He freelanced as a correspondent in Mexico for 18 months and learned Spanish before joining My London as a content editor.

Fun fact: He once served Gillian Anderson while a gawky teenager working at Waterstones in Bath.

Career highlight “The story I’m most proud of in my career was a campaign I initiated calling for justice for the family of a 12-year-old girl who was killed in a still unsolved hit-and-run in South East London in the run-up to the 10th anniversary of her death.

“We ran a whole series of stories with her family and friends, and got the then Mayor of London Boris Johnson to declare his support. At My London I really enjoy working with so many young, talented and enthusiastic reporters covering some powerful stories you won’t see elsewhere in a thoughtful and compelling way.”

You can send a story to Tim by emailing tim.macfarlan@reachplc.com

Maddy Mussen

Maddy has previously worked at The Tab

MADDY joined My London as a trainee reporter in March 2021. She was assistant editor at The Tab and has written for Vice, The Guardian, The Times and The Sunday Times. Maddy has a degree in economics from Coventry University in 2019.

Covers Richmond, Kingston and Wandsworth plus lifestyle, trends and anything weird and wonderful about London.

Highlights so far “One of the most enjoyable pieces I have been able to work on during my time at My London is this first person piece about my experience on the app Nextdoor, where I tried to find a fit boy I spotted on a neighbouring road.

This accidentally resulted in me becoming low level famous in my London borough and drawn into a mural of the local area. The story was entirely coincidental (with the help of many cans of G&T) but made for a great piece. I guess sometimes you don’t make the news, you are the news!!”

Confession “I’m obsessed with the Tube in an arguably unhealthy way.”

You can send a story to Maddy by emailing madeline.mussen@reachplc.com

Maria Okanrende

Maria joined the My London team in March

MARIA is an apprentice journalist and presenter and joined My London in March 2021.

After graduating from Goldsmiths, University of London with a degree in English literature, she went on to intern at the BBC, before working as a production assistant at Capital Xtra (podcasts).

She spent seven years co-hosting the morning show at Beat FM and has since gone on to work with MTV as well as many other brands as a presenter and influencer.

Maria lives in London and is of Nigerian descent. She continues to strive for equal opportunities in the media industry and report on the types of stories that are representative of a diverse audience.

You can send a story to Maria by emailing maria.okanrende@reachplc.com

Jamie Phillips

Jamie is our crime and court reporter

JAMIE, 25, graduated from the University of Brighton before starting a trainee role at our sister site Surrey Live in October 2018. He became a senior reporter in July 2020 before joining My London in March.

He is a #30ToWatch young journalist and recent NCTJ Trainee News Journalism Award winner.

Covers Jamie is the site’s first ever dedicated court and crime reporter.

Highlights so far “A story I am particularly proud of writing is this investigation into the increasing prevalence of zombie knives in London.

Zombie knives have been connected to a number of gruesome and brutal stabbings across the city in recent years and tackling their use is a priority for police. However, figures show that their use has actually risen tenfold in just four years.

Knife crime continues to impact thousands of lives across London and a vital part of my role is uncovering and highlighting these issues.”

You can find Jamie on Twitter – @jphillips_sj – and Facebook – @jphillipsjourno and can send him a story or tip off on a court case you he should be covering by emailing jamie.phillips@reachplc.com

Maia Snow

Maia Snow is a Content Editor for My London

MAIA is a content editor for My London and previously worked as a senior reporter at Leicestershire Live.

She started in journalism at 15, writing a column for the youth page of her local paper, the Nottingham Post. She freelanced for the title while studying at university.

Career highlights so far “Not long before becoming a content editor, I wrote this story for Leicestershire Live, which I was very proud of.

“It was a tough subject matter, but Ben, who was fighting a rare cancer for a second time at the age of 33, had such a positive outlook on life and his situation, and was so determined to survive, I couldn’t help but feel positive too, and as a result of the story, we helped Ben raise money for the treatment he needed, which was very rewarding.

“I am passionate about covering real people and their remarkable stories, to try to do our bit to spread the word and help in any way we can.”

You can send a story to Maia by emailing maia.snow@reachplc.com

Dan Wiggins

Dan is one of the newest members of the team

DAN has joined My London as a trending reporter. He graduated from the University of Sheffield in 2019 with a BA in history and again in 2020 with an MA in journalism.

He has bylines in Bristol Live and spent time working with Sky News to cover the 2019 general election.

Based in Hackney, Dan is keen to use his platform to share stories from all communities, especially those historically under-represented in the media.

Highlights so far “I wrote about a 76-year-old man in Muswell Hill who’d been going out attaching notes to cars as he was so determined to find a job.

“It was great to see his local community come together to give him some support in the form of a fundraiser and lovely to see his reaction.”

You can send a story to Dan by emailing danwiggins1997@gmail.com

Lucy Williamson

Lucy joined My London in March 2021

LUCY is one of the newest members of the team and came to My London from medical journal The Lancet. She is a University of Exeter psychology graduate, originally from Canterbury in Kent. She lives in Clapham after spending 18 months around Australia and is currently completing journalism training.

Covers Lambeth, Lewisham and Southwark.

Highlights so far “The story I am most proud of so far is this feature about eating disorders. It showed how the pandemic has caused an influx of NHS referrals from people suffering with eating disorders in London.

“It was great to speak to those affected and understand how people can help their friends and family who may be suffering.”

You can send a story to Lucy by emailing lucy.williamson@reachplc.com


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