East Ender Anita Dobson returns to her roots for hospital cause

Anita Dobson, a former East Ender in more ways than one, visited Whitechapel today (September 30) to launch a fundraising campaign to provide a home for families of sick children who are staying at the Royal London Hospital.

Best known for her role as Angie Watts in EastEnders, the actress and singer, who grew up in Globe Road in Stepney, visited Stevenson House in Ashfield Street, Whitechapel, which provides bedrooms, a kitchen and play areas for families whose children are at the nearby hospital.

The Sick Children’s Trust, which manages the house, wants to raise �290,000 to build an extension, including four additional bedrooms, which will allow them to help an additional 150 families every year.

Anita, the wife of Queen guitarist Brian May, said: “When families have really sick children, it’s so important to just try and give them a base where they can keep the family together and have a semblance of normality.”

She talked to families staying at the house and played with their children, including a pillow-fight with Riley Griffiths, 4, who she said had a hair-cut similar to her husband’s.

Riley, who normally lives with his family in Poplar, has extensive bronchiectasis, a form of progressive lung damage, which has led to 10 stays of up to three weeks at the hospital since April 2009.

His mother, Mellissa Fairman, 24, of Ettrick Street, said: “The house has been a lifeline.”

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Anita went to the former Coborn Grammar School in Bow and took her first acting steps at a Whitechapel amateur theatre school.

She said: “I was born and bred here and I didn’t properly leave until I got my first job in the theatre which took me up to Glasgow.

“I’ll always be an East End girl.”