Monday, 29 December 2008

2008... what a year for East London!

2008 was an eventful package this side of London.

One of the main issues challenging us is crime. Of the 23 London teenagers that died because of stab wounds in 2008, we lost Nabil Bakurally from Ilford and also Charles Junior Hendricks from Walthamstow.

It was interesting to see the local community and police work closely to tackle the problem of teenage violence. In Stoke Newington, for example, every night residents were complaining to the police about troublsome teenagers who were causing trouble on the estates in the area. The boys covered their faces with bandanas when they striked. As a result, the police slapped a ban in the area, barring youngsters from wearing bandanas.

The fight against other types of crime was also stepped up. In Barking and Dagenham, the local council introduced talking CCTV cameras and in Tower Hamlets, in an attempt to reduce prostitution in the area, the local council had a crackdown on kerb crawlers. For the first time, culprits were offered the opporutnity to attend a Change Course instead of appearing in court. The course, paid for by kerb crawlers themselves, taught men about the women they seek out and how it affects their girlfriends or wives.

Parts of East London are still grapling with high poverty. This year the End Child Poverty report stated that almost half the children living in parts of East London (like Bethnal Green, Bow and Barking) come from families where the parents are not in a job and are living on benefits. As a result, many of the children have a grim childhood. The credit crunch has not helped matters, with some families falling prey to loan sharks. It was welcome news then when the East London-based charity Quaker Social Action, won the top prize at the Charity Awards in July for their projects to help poor families in the area.

On the sport front, there were more messy issues uncovered around the 2012 Olympics money pot; the latest being that the government might fail to get businesses to fund the International Broadcast and Media centre, which is a key 2012 site. But fear not, the games will take place.

On the people front, Stratford-based sprinter Christine Ohurugu roped a gold medal at the Beijing Olympics and did us all proud. Ray Lewis came to the light as Boris Johnson’s deputy youth mayor. As founder of the Eastside Young Learning Academy, it was said he had enough clout to tackle the capital’s youth crime, especially in the black commnity. However, he resigned in July. Boris was quoted in the Telegraph newspaper saying that the allegations surrounding Lewis's resignation did not stop him “found a school that has done untold good for East London children and they should not stop him from serving as my deputy mayor.”

There’s no ommiting Hackney lass Leona Lewis. The X Factor star received three Grammy nominations for the 51st Grammy Awards this month. Her record Bleeding Love was nominated for Record of the Year, as well as Best Female Pop Vocal Performance.

And now for 2009 … what’s in store for us?

Monday, 15 December 2008

Upton Park woman returns after forced marriage drama

The recently enforced Forced Marriage Act is already proving to be useful to communities in this part of London.

Monday, 8 December 2008

Forestgate £20m heroin stash uncovered

Heroin worth £20m has been found hidden in a Forestgate house. I never imagined there was so much going on in Forestgate!

Police say they got a tip-off that the sparesly decorated three-bedroom property in Meath Road, Forestgate, was being used as a safehouse for class A drugs.

Inside the house, officers found four brown cardboard boxes stacked on top of a single bed in one of the side bedrooms. Inside each of the boxes was approximately 140-160 envelopes stashed with a quantity of heroin.

It is believed these were all packaged ready for distribution. In total, it is estimated that over 150 kilos of high-grade heroin was seized, with an estimated street value of £20 million pounds.

DI Stephenson from the Met's Central Task Force East said, "This is one of the most significant drugs seizures by the Met this year, and has seriously disrupted a major criminal network planning to flood London with heroin for the Christmas period.”

Monday, 1 December 2008

6500 people needed to make Christmas special

Local charity Crisis is looking for volunteers to help give homeless people an unforgetable week this month.

Last year 6500 volunteers helped serve the homeless hot meals, and get medical treatment and blankets, and a wide range of essential services that they often miss out on. For the past 37 years, Crisis Christmas has also helped alleviate the loneliness and depresion some of them go through especially during Christmas time.

The organisation will open Christmas Centres across London from 23 – 30 December.

For more information contact Crisis on Tel: 020 7426 3874 or email:

* * * *

And talking about Christmas cheer, I was at the shopping mall in Barking recently and one floor up from the massive Christmas tree there, I cought these three fellas (pictured) sending it off. Aren’t they sweet?

Monday, 24 November 2008

What does the PBR mean for East London?

You may have seen and heard a lot about the PBR in the news today?

The pre-Budget report is the government’s chance to explain to us what the Budget next year will look like.

Just last week it was reported that families in East London have the highest debt.

A survey, conducted by Callcredit found that the E1 to E17 postcodes are the most debt-heavy in the country; additionally, places like Tower Hamlets are one of the most deprived in the country, with high unemployment rates and many families on benefits.

Are there any goodies in the PBR for East London? You be the judge:

The price of commodities in shops is likely to go down, with a cut in VAT from 17.5% to 15%. The government also plans to get poor families to pay less tax. For example, it has in place changes to income tax that will see people who earn £10,000 save about £118.

Pension credit will rise in April from £124 to £130 a week for individuals and from £189 to £198 for couples.

* * * * *


Good news from the Northumbria Police today is that Missing mother Natalie Bracht and her five daughters have been found. The family is safe and well in Munich, Germany.

As reported in last week’s blog, Natalie left her home in Sunderland, and was reported to have been spotted in Shoreditch.

Monday, 17 November 2008

Concern for mother and missing girls

A family is being sought by the police after they were reported as missing.

The mother and her five daughters left Sunderland in May and are believed to have come to London before moving elsewhere.

The Hackney Gazette says the family (pictured) were in Shoreditch, Hackney, in June.

Mick McCracken of Sunderland City Council, said: "They appear to have been moving around the country without any means of support, we don't know whether the girls have been at school or if they have any unmet medical or other needs. We all want to know that [they] are safe and well."

If you’ve spotted this family, please call the Missing People charity on 0500 700 700or the police on 0800 555 111.

Monday, 10 November 2008

Teenager slain on Ilford High Street

Only a few weeks ago I mentioned that Ilford is becoming less safe (see Mon 13.10.08).

For now just walking on the High Road might cause some to shudder, such as the friends of the teenager Nabil Bakurally (19) who was stabbed to death there this weekend.

Nabil (pictured) is the 28th teenager to have died in a violent incidence in London this year. The Evening Standard says he was killed in a suspected row with a group of rival Asian men in the area, adding that that tensions between Mauritian and Indian teenagers in the area have been high for weeks and Nabil may have inadvertently been drawn into the feud.

If this is true, are these particular Indian v Mauritian ‘gang’ problems known to the police and what is the Asian community in Ilford doing to diffuse them?

Why wait for someone to be murdered for the problem to be brought to the surface?

Tuesday, 4 November 2008

A Barking meltdown

Those people in Barking and Dagenham who made their way to this year’s Molten Festival were enthralled this weekend by the fireworks display. The annual celebration also includes music, art and other outdoor activities.

Monday, 27 October 2008

West Ham fans and the East end

Last night I dashed off to a shop in Upton Park only to find it was closed. As ususal, the traffic on Green Street was something else. The many West Ham fans who spilled onto the narrow pavement didn’t help matters.

But I can’t complain … West Ham is very much a part of East London, as seen on this clip above made by a fan.

Monday, 20 October 2008

Acting the part

And now, time for some serious play. Budding actors are being offered the chance to get cracking on their talent with the help of profressionals.

Hackney Empire is running a free perfomance workshop for teenagers who want to bring out their best in different aspects of performance and theatre. At the end of the week, they will perform in a show in front of an audience.

Call 0208 510 4507 to be part of the action.

Monday, 13 October 2008

Just how safe are Ilford’s streets?

It's getting more dangerous to walk around Ilford at night – some have said even in the afternoon one needs to be careful.

The place is the bedrock of Redbridge, with its busy shopping mall, banks and several companies operating from here. It also has several pubs and bars, and it was just outside one such joint, the Blue Ice bar, that a man was shot.

This week the police said they are offering a reward of £20 000 for imformation leading to the arrest of the person who murdered Syed Mehdi (pictured).

It is believed the suspect, described as a black male, approached Syed on foot before firing shots from a handgun. He made off in a direction unknown.

I lived in Ilford a while ago; back then you could walk around at night and not expect anything dangerous.

I did not mention that the area also has a large police station? I’d like to think the officers are working on making Ilford as safe as it used to be – or almost.

Monday, 6 October 2008

Parents of poor kids not getting work

Almost half the children livng in parts of East London come from families where the parents are not in a job and are living on benefits.

According to the recently published End Child Poverty report, areas like Bethnal Green, Bow and Barking rank high on the London list. The impact for the children is that many of them have a grim chidlhood.

There is a possibility that these children, in addition to the difficulties they face in their young lives, may grow up with no role models to inspire them to get out of the gutter and get a good job.

As to why these parents are not in a job is another matter, but I don’t think their situation will change anytime soon.

Monday, 29 September 2008

Getting back to church on Sundays

Several churches across the country have been encouraging people to come back to fellowship in Back to Church Sunday.

The event is important because in culturally diverse areas such as Tower Hamlets, Newham and Hackney, faith has a key place for people from different backgrounds.

The church does make a difference in the lives of these people, as I discovered when I wrote an article about the role of the church in East London.

Back to Sunday saw churches in these areas this weekend fling their doors wide open and welcome all kinds in.

But the numbers aren’t so important as the heart of the matter, which includes taking a close look at why these people left church in the first place, and secondly, why they should come back again.

Monday, 22 September 2008

Racing to help keep women off the streets

Many homeless women in London are not getting access to help, or to housing facilities provided by their local councils.

I learnt of this from the Crisis website. This East London organisation, on its part, provides money to help homeless people get into a work-based goal.

This is one way of helping the vulnerable homeless women in East London, and other parts of the city, get closer to becoming self sufficient.

This weekend Crisis’s fund racing event, The Rat Race Urban Adventure, kicks off. Those more active than I am have the option of taking part in various fundraising activities, such as hiking and abseil, to raise funds.

Monday, 15 September 2008

Bandana boys banned from Stoke estate

People living in a Stoke Newington estate now feel safer to walk on their streets, after the police introduced a new 3-month dispersal law banning youngsters from wearing bandanas in the area.

The Hackney Gazette reports that the youths mainly use the bandanas to cover their faces to hide their identity, and were intimidating residents. Its understood they were mainly from Islington and came to Milton Garden estate to cause trouble.

Every night the police would receive several calls from the residents who were too scared to go outside once the bandana boys hit the area. Since the law has been indtroduced, some boys have been ordered out of the area and calls to the police have been greatly reduced.

The dispersal order means police can order such people to leave the area and not return for 24 hours.

Monday, 8 September 2008

Waiter, there’s a spicey roach in my soup!

Goodness knows how long folk in Walthamstow have been eating cockroach dropppings buried in the dishes served at a Srik Lankan restaurant.

Help me out if I’m being an alarmist here, but, according to Walthamstow Council, the restaurant was forced to shut down because of the severe cokcroach infestation; the entire place was filthy with dirt and food accumulating on every surface, and cockroach droppings were also found in the cupboards containing food trays.

What I can’t fathom is that the owner was given a warning and told to start treatment before this action took place.

But when health inspectors visited the place again, little had been done to get rid of the ghastly creatures.

Perhaps, being a small business owner, he could not afford the fumigation costs? Or maybe, like the other dodgy restauranters lurking out there, he simply didn’t think it was a pritority.

Whatever his reasons, he’s learnt the hard way; and I’m not sure if I pity the guy or his customers/victims more.

Monday, 25 August 2008

Teenager stabbed in Walthamstow

Yet another teenger has been been murdered in London.

Yesterday morning, Charles Junior Hendricks (18) was found bleeding to death from a single stab wound near a bus garage in Walthamstow, east London, by police officers on a routine patrol.

He was taken to a nearby hospital by ambulance but died shortly after his arrival.
It is not yet known who killed the young man or why.

He is the 24th teenager to be killed in the capital this year

Tuesday, 19 August 2008

New Brick Lane book

Brick Lane is one of my favourite places in East London. I like the long winding lane’s crowd, from the curry touts to the city and bohemian visitors.

Now another book’s due for release on the place. I remember reading Monica Ali’s ‘Brick Lane’ and sighing ‘wow’ when I finished it.

East London born Rachel Lichtenstein's ‘On Brick Lane’ could be just as palatable, with an expected historical twist.

Her grandparents arrived in Brick Lane during the 1930s. The Jewish community remained there until the 1960s when a new wave of Asian Immigrants poured in.

“I was fascinated by the immigration experience which was common to all the communities which settled here,” she says, adding that, “The Bangladeshi community went through the same struggles as the Jewish community to stay in the area and fought hard to have a place.”

Look out for it on book shelves on August 28

Monday, 11 August 2008

Where’s Christine hiding?

It’s hard to tell what local Olympic stars get up to in their spare time. I say this because I’ve not seen Christine Ohuruogu shopping in the mall in Stratford or on our streets. As you know, she’s back from Beijing having done Newham – and Britain, no doubt – proud by clinching the 400 metres gold medal.

She says she worked too hard to expect less of herself. Let’s hope she’s now relaxing and taking it easy, even if its out of sight.

Cowboy builders strike in Woodford

Just a few weeks ago I mentioned – warned – that there's a bogus charity worker doing the rounds in Ilford. She knocks on doors asking for money, claiming to present a charity.

Once the cash hits her hands, she’s gone. Now the Walthamstow Guardian reports that police in the Snaresbrook and Woodford area are cracking down on cold callers, or shall we say, door-to-door salesmen after a cowboy builder fleeced a pensioner of
a £1000.

As with the bogus charity worker, this ‘builder’ spoke convincingly. So much, in fact, that the pensioner allowed him to work in his home without asking for his address or surname, before he disappeared.

It’s hard to believe there’s still such trusting people out there. Or are they simply vulnerable?

Monday, 4 August 2008

Bringing out the craziness in families

I’m yet to meet the perfect the family. Sure, I’ve come across some who appeared to be sqeeky clean, but were actually something else at a closer glance …

There appears to be one worth checking out though, and that’s on stage at Hackney Empire from 9 September 2008.

The Family is a Russian clown production about a disfunctional family; so get ready to giggle about serious stuff.

Sounds solid from the reviews I’ve seen.

Monday, 28 July 2008

Making the gals look and feel good

Something good happened for a group of young women from a supported housing scheme in Bow.

They were given the opportunity learn about how to get a job in the beauty industry and also trained on some areas of this work.

Rabena Faried, manager at the housing scheme, said: “Many of the young people who live here have had very difficult childhoods and come to us with low self-esteem and little direction. This course has enabled a number of young women to enhance their skills.”

East End Life says the course, conducted by Tower Hamlets College, is useful in helping these women get jobs and have independent lives.

Monday, 21 July 2008

African Children's Choir to sway Forest Gate

Drums, shouts and a lot of stomping. The popular
African Children’s Choir is out to bring the house down when they show case their stuff at the Arc Church in Forest Gate this coming weekend.

For more info call 0208 555 4245.

Monday, 14 July 2008

Have a go at ‘running’ Newham’s hospital

Suppose that for one day, tomorrow, you were in charge of all Newham’s
health services.

Then let your thoughts drift further and consider how you
would use your time to shape the future of health in the borough.

In simple terms, that opportunity to have your voice heard is the principle
behind the forthcoming Newham Health Debate.

Over the coming months the Newham Primary Care Trust will be introducing a series of events in which local residents will be asked about the kind of health services they want.

When the process is complete the Trust will analyse the information, identify the priorities and then set about acting on the results.

Look out for the first of these events – which is a survey questionnaire that will be distributed throughout the borough and available online.

This will be followed by a workshop and then a will be a live question-time meeting.

Monday, 7 July 2008

Top prize for helping poor folk mange their money

There’s loads of struggling families this side of town who can’t cope because they don’t know how to handle their (little) money.

So when a charity comes along and helps them manage their cash it’s no small issue because by educating the breadwinners in these communities, many people benefit – from mothers to children and those who live with cousins and grandparents.

No doubt judges at this year’s Charity Awards realised this when they gave the
Quaker Social Action (QSA) the top prize in the social care, welfare and religion category.

The QSA’s robust project , Made of Money?, fought off tough competition to win the judges hearts.

The panel recognised the immense value of giving families the time and space to talk, listen and learn about money and the emotional relief that the project provides, particularly in this current climate of economic uncertainty.

The QSA has been helping poor families in East London since 1867 and I’m sure many will agree with me that they deserve the prize.

Monday, 30 June 2008

Bogus charity worker hits Ilford

Residents in Ilford have been told to be on the alert for a drug addict pretending to be a charity worker.

According to the Ilford Recorder, the gaunt woman asks people to donate to a leukaemia charity, but uses the proceeds to fund her drug habit instead.

While I see a drug addict pulling this off, I wonder how many people out there don’t know the basics of dealing with door-knockers?

Last year, Newham Council warned that in such situations, residents should ask for some form of identification and, if still uncertain, find out a bit more about the organisation being represented.

This was the time bogus plumbers and builders were doing the rounds.

The Recorder says one resident who donated in the past chased the suspect to demand the money back.

This may not be the wisest thing, as such crooks may be armed with knives and one could get seriously hurt over money unwisely given.

Monday, 23 June 2008

Battle for Banglatown looming

The good news for all is that Shoreditch High Street station will indeed re-open at some point in the near future (two years).

The stations is currently shut, leaving many who use the East London line to rely on replacement bus services. This week plans of what the station will look like were unveiled.

But good news may soon turn bad for transport officials, if members of the Bangla community get their way.

According to the London Paper, locals have been campainging to rename the station Banlgatown because of its proximity to the area around Brick Lane, home to a large Banladeshi community.

Transport officials say the renaming will cost £2m to change existing maps, signs, etc.

According to the London East website, Imam Uddin, head of the Banglatown Restaurant Association, says: "Changing the name to Banglatown is a good idea. It will give our community more of an identity.”

Iman and his colleagues have acted swiftly to deal with this identity crisis by submitting a petition to the Council for the name change.

We eagerly await the reply on this one.

Monday, 16 June 2008

Event brings together fathers and sons

This weekend the Arc church in Forestgate held an event called 300 Men in One Place, aimed at fathers and sons.

I thought it would be a men-only do, but it turns out that women were allowed to attend as observers.

Although I did not go, I understand this Fathers day event was an interesting evening. There was music, food and a number of speakers.

Ray Lewis, London’s Deputy Mayor for Young People, gave a talk on why its important to have fathers around for their children. His father deserted him when he was young, so one can understand why this topic is close to his heart.

Lewis also slammed ‘extreme feminism’. I’m not sure how the ladies who attended as observers took this bit in though.

Monday, 9 June 2008

Any guarentee Olympics diggers are safe from more bombs?

Who would have guessed that folk in the Bow and Bethnal Green area were living above a huge (1,000kg or 2,200lb) bomb?

Certainly not me; and it’s unlikely that many construction workers did either – until one of them stumbled upon the massive World War 2 bomb?

The digger was clearing the site for the 2012 Olympics. The bomb was then denoted by the army.

But it doesn’t end there; according to the BBC, an army spokesman said it was “impossible” to say how many unexploded World War II bombs remained in London and that more could be discovered as construction work takes place in the run-up to the 2012 Olympics.

This, of course, is not good news for the construction workers who must now go to work with a barrel of bravado packed alongside their sandwiches and flasks.

But, seriously, how safe are these workers? Now that it is officially known that more bombs could be discovered as these men prepare the site for the big games, what is being done to prevent them stumbling across more lethal devices?

How about the 2012 Olympics committee donates a small share of its millions (erm ... billions?) to the army to work on a prevention strategy?

Monday, 2 June 2008

Romford traders cabbages and big screen woes?

There’s few dull momments at Romford market – noisy traders outdoing themselves as they holler prices, shoppers darting about and bustling for a bargain.

For traders and shoppers alike, there’s going to be more to look forward to with new plans to have a giant screen right in the market square.

Havering Council, who is behind the plan, says it’s part of its strategy to ‘re-energise the historical Market Place.’ Excuse my ignorance, but I’m a bit baffled by how a market place can be re-energised. Any explanations out there?

No doubt it means well. From what I gather, the screen will show big football games and top events, making the market place a shopping and cultural venue.

Some of these big screens, Havering Council says, can also allow members of the crowd to participate in interactive games and compete against people in other towns using the advanced technology. Impressive.

I’d like to know if these screens will be used for advertising. Will the Council invite companies to advertise their goods and services on these screens for a whopping fee?

The big screens may suddenly turn from being a terrific form of entertainment to a daylight horror for traders if Tesco advertises its cabbages for £1 when they are selling them for twice as much.

Monday, 26 May 2008

What’s life like for fathers who stay?

Some men chose to walk away from their children while others feel cirucmstances lead them to do so.

What happens to these fathers varies: some remarry and play a role in their chidlrens’ lives while committed elsewhere; others never look back and some may vanish only to reappear later on in life.

But what about those fathers who do stay?

Rikki Beadle-Blair’d play Familyman (pictured), currently showing at Theatre Royal in Stratford, shows that those who stay and help the mothers raise the children can face challenges, especially in the age of liberal parenting.

But regardless of the challenges, it is a fulfilling role – and the child stands to gain most out of it.

Today, many young people in the boroughs this side of town are brought up by single mothers, a difficult experience for both the children and the mothers, some of who have to do two jobs to provide for their family.

Growing up in the rough estates, some boys from such backgrounds are turning to gang leaders to play the father role in their lives.

As an article in the Voice shows, boys in these ends need fathers.

Monday, 19 May 2008

Safe buses, but what happens to the troublemakers caught?

Bus journeys are likely to be more bearable from now on, with the news that teams of hundreds of uniformed police will patrol London’s stations and routes to tackle crime and other anti-social behaviour.

The Met says 440 uniformed officers will be used to establish the new teams. Each team will be made up of one sergeant, one police constable and seven police community support officers. They will be supported by 1,600 special constables.

According to the BBC, there were 5,701 reports of crime on buses in 2007, compared to 3,666 the previous year.

I would like to think we’ll see some of the new teams at Barking, Stratford and, please please, Ilford.

At this stage it is unclear what will happen to the culprits that get up to no good on buses and trains. Will the police teams slap them with the normal on-the-spot fine or arrest and jail them, if necessary?

Already the Telegraph has put dampers on the latter prospect – it reports that for every 50 youngsters arrested for carrying a sharp knife, only one was jailed.

Now, if youngsters are let off for carrying knives, how much more for being rowdy or violent on a bus?

It has been said that if they are teenagers, they will lose their right to free travel. But how can that be effective when you get routes like the bendy bus 25, where commuters can get on and off without paying?

However, notwithstanding the hazy bits of this new development, it’s still a welcome move to know that we’ll have police on the trains and buses in these parts of town.

Happy riding!

Monday, 12 May 2008

Odd couple going interesting places

A friend of mine was at the Global Day or Prayer event yesterday. She tells me there was a special appearance of – surprise, surprise – Boris Johnson, London’s new mayor.

He told the estimated 25 000 Christians that he has appointed Ray Lewis of the Eastside Young Learning Academy as his deputy youth mayor.

Who is Ray Lewis? He is the man who believes he can change black boys in East London who are about to be expelled from school.

He founded the award-winning Newham-based organisation to help instill discipline in the boys and he encourages them to get academic qualifications.

At the onset, Ray and Boris do not appear to have anything in common: Ray was raised by a struggling single mother while Etonian Boris had a more comfortable and financially secure upbringing.

Whereas Ray was ordained a church minister, Boris has had a less pious history.

But several black boys have been killing each other in various parts of the city, East London included. The problem is so serious that it is demanding people of completely different backgrounds join hands and do something about it quickly.

In their joint effort, this odd couple will take each other to different places and different people – a mass prayer meeting today and who knows where tomorrow?

Monday, 5 May 2008

Booting out cyberbullying in our schools

If for anyone else, life may become more bearable for children in school playgrounds and classrooms with the launch this week of an anti-bullying pack.

The kit is designed by Tower Hamlets Council to equip schools in East London to tackle bullying.

It provides tips on how to spot bullying and what help can be given to those that are affected by it.

The concept is not new – most schools already have anti-bullying policies in place and teachers and prefects alike can usually spot it.

So why spend money on duplicating a policy and dishing it out as novel?

It could be because there are new forms of bullying that parents (or even chidlren themselves) are not aware are actually classified as bullying and can cause serious distress to victims.

Helen Jenner, the Service Head for Early Years Children and Learning at Tower Hamlets Council (whoa … what a long title!) says that: ‘New forms of bullying like cyber-bullying have emerged in recent years, and it’s important that schools know how to identify these problems and deal with them if they occur.’

Now what is this cyber bullying?

Like me, you may suspect is involves the internet. Correct.

The department for Children, Schools and Families defines it as:

“an aggressive, intentional act carried out by a group or individual, using electronic forms of contact, repeatedly over time against a victim who cannot easily defend him or herself.”

This booklet will certainly teach mischievous children in our schools that making fun of someone on YouTube or bombarding them with nasty texts for the fun of it is not acceptable.

Monday, 28 April 2008

Can East London produce a solid London Mayor?

As the day for Londoners to elect a mayor draws closer,
Alan Craig (pictured) of the Christian People's Alliance appears to have stuck out as the better known mayoral candidate to come out of East London this time round.

Craig has lived in East London for many years and is based in Canning Town. He is also a Councillor in Newham.

He is touting family values: he believes that many of the problems London is facing today, i.e. crime and teenage alcholism, are because of the breakdown of the family unit.

He is also known for strongly opposing plans to build a mega-mosque in West Ham. His manefesto states that ‘it is forwarded by the secretive and separatist Tablighi Jamaat Islamic sect … and it will also foster fundamentalism’.

Can Craig upstage Ken?

YOU can decide that on May 1 when you make your way to the polls.

Monday, 21 April 2008

Flats or Flair: what’s the priority for Hackney?

Priorities, priorities, priorities. This could soon be the buzz word for artists and homeless people in Hackney.

The Hackney Gazette reports that a group of artists are against plans for high rise developments because they fear the place will become a ghetto.

The paper claims that artists including Tracey Emin and Dinos Chapman have expressed their concerns in an open letter to the London mayor, Ken Livingstone.

With all due respect, Shoreditch (and Bethnal Green Road) already seems to have traits of a ghetto, nevertheless …

Have these artists considered that for an area currently experiencing serious levels of overcrowding, these very ‘detestable’ tall towers may house several families and homeless people?

According to Team Hackney, overcrowding in Hackney in the social rented sector is serious and worsening.

But on the other hand, maybe the artists are right. The towers could look ugly in trendy Shoreditch - and who knows what their presence would bring?

This is where the ‘priority’ word comes in: is housing or recreation a priority for Hackney at this point in time?

Whose cry will matter most to Ken Livingston or his colleagues at Hackney Council: artists or those in need of accommodation?

Interestingly others in the area, like supporters of the Hackney Independent, believe such high rise buildings will not benefit ordinary working class families or the homeless.

They say such flats going up in the area are aimed at rich middle class professionals.

This ropes in the possibility that the need for new flats are actually a priority for another group: rich property/building companies with an aim to build flats for yuppies.

They are unlikely to help the many families in need of basic accommodation or the homeless. They may not even impress the angry artists.

At a time when Ken Livingston is trying to win the hearts (I think I mean votes here) of every Londoner – artists, homeless, rich property developers – we may not know whose voice will be heard for a long while.

Meanwhile, above is a video of other folk who decided they had another priority for high rise flats in Hackney: operating pirate radio stations.

Monday, 14 April 2008

Teenagers hobbies to be funded by Council

Life is not as miserable for teenagers as our newspapers – or some teenagers themselves – would have us believe.

Havering Council, together with Havering College, is offering youngsters money to invest in their favourite hobby or sport.

Called the Havering Talented 30 scheme, the fund aims to assist teenagers develop their skills fully. Those who are selected will be given £200 for this purpose.

Havering cabinet member for Culture and Leisure, Councillor Andrew Curtin, said: “Excellence in the arts and sport is an absolutely basic part of a well-educated and civilised society.”

For more info on the scheme contact Havering Council (

Monday, 7 April 2008

Olympic torch celebrations in Newham

While thousands of pro-Tibetan protestors gave the police grief over the Olympic torch in Central London, residents in Newham played it safe.

The local council organised games, music and other entertainment to mark the torch's passing through London.

Somehow I couldn't bring myself to join in the fun and games.

Monday, 31 March 2008

Stratford theatre piece wows Barbican audience

If you’re looking for a cocktail of reggae and ghetto action you might want to check out Theatre Royal’s most popular play, The Harder They Come, based on the 1972 Jamaican film.

Produced in East London, the production has now moved to the Barbican Theatre and has impressed folk there.

It tells the story of Ivan, a country boy who leaves the Jamaican countryside to seek fame and fortune in Kingston through his music, but the harsh reality of the music scene drives him into a fast and furious life as an outlaw.

The show features many returning cast members from the Theatre Royal Stratford East production, such as Rolan Bell as Ivan and Joanna Francis as Elsa.

Monday, 24 March 2008

Does peace stand a chance in Hackney?

This weekend residents in Hackney held a Palm Sunday Ecumenical march, commemorating Jesus’s entrance into Jerusalem.

They prayed along the streets as they marched.

Leading the march alongside church clergy was Councillor Faizullah Khan, who said: ‘As a borough, we have achieved peace and harmony through tolerance and understanding, and we can all help to develop and expand this.’

This is a borough with one of the highest number of gangs in London and serious crime figures.

Even the Home Secretary Jacqui Smith has admitted she wouldn’t feel safe walking alone in Hackney.

We remember victims like Stevens Nyembo-Ya-Muteba, a father who was killed by teeangers in his block of flats for asking them to keep the noise down.

This same weekend of this march, a store manager
Jamie Simpson was knifed to death by three youths while cashing up.

But Cllr Khan still finds this a peaceful and harmounous place to live.

Is it that he is not aware of the bloodier side of the borough or that the march simply wasn’t the place or time to raise such gruesome issues?

Neither is likely to be true.

Regardless of that, the 150 local people and the various leaders who walked and prayed in the streets are proof that locals believe that peace can still be achieved.

They have not given up that hope.

Monday, 17 March 2008

Cash injection for prostitutes struggling to get out

Does life in East London force women into prostitution or is it that these women simply find it an easy way to make money?

Do you sympathise with prostitutes or not?

The London Councils has just set aside money to help organisations in places like Hackney, Tower Hamlets and Newham answer such questions and rescue women from prostitution.

Eaves Housing for Women has been allocated over £440 000 to investigate and tackle the root causes and pathways into trafficking and prostitution across all the London boroughs, including East London.

The scheme will also help provide outreach services, advice, training, and access to supported housing for women seeking to escape from a life of prostitution.

The New Horizon Youth Centre will receive around £170 000 to help towards outreach advice workers and the Women and Girls Network will provide counselling to women involved in prostitution to help them seek a new way of life.

A 2004 Home Office consultation on prostitution estimates that 115 women are on the streets in London on any one night.

Additonally, the findings of a London Assembly report on Street prostitution in London from 2005 says there are as many as 5,000 women working in around 800 saunas, massage parlours and escort agencies across the capital providing sexual services.

Monday, 18 February 2008

Talking CCTV cameras to scare away yobs

Residents in Barking and Dagenham may feel safer now that the local Council has installed talking CCTV cameras in the borough.

The cameras have audio cards and loudspeakers which are activated by officers in the Council’s CCTV control room.

From there the officers watch what’s going on in the area and can speak directly to people they feel are acting irresponsibly and also ask them to stop doing something.

But just how effective will the cameras be?

On the one hand the talking cameras may be compared to the Trasnport for London’s polite posters you find at the station asking you to be considerate and not play music too loudly. All words, no action really.

Or imagine if a thief is snatching a woman’s handbag: does he suddenly drop it and flee when the controllers voice booms ‘Now, please drop that bag immediately young man!’

But on the other hand, the cameras may make a difference. Known yobs up to know good may be reminded by the booming voice that they are being watched and scuttle, as opposed to a poster that says ‘Anti-Social behaviour will not be tolerated in this area.’

That’s assuming the voice will indeed have a boom.

Monday, 11 February 2008

Prisoners pay-back scheme: how does a community welcome them back?

Jack Straw has launched plans to offer prisoners the opportunity to do community work rather than serve time in jail.

Part of the “alternatives to custody” project includes getting them to do unpaid work for the community, electronic monitoring and help with resettlement.

All this is designed to keep them from staying in prison. The government believes they are better off helping ‘pay back’ the community than being kept in cells.

The Tories have slammed these plans, claiming it is a strong indicationt that the government has failed to build enough jails.

They say under the governments End of Custody Licence scheme, one prisoner is released every 17 minutes.

Above is a video of an alleged robbery in East London.

Some questions must be asked: should this young robber be let out of jail early? If he took part in Straw’s ‘community payback’ scheme, would the community he robbed and injured gain from his release? If he were assigned to do community work on your street, would you let him into your premises to, for example, weed the garden?

On the other hand, others like Straw believe that this guy deserves a chance.

So does the Prison Reform Trust which fights for the rights of prisoners.

In an article in the Guardian, the organisation claims many of them should not be in prison in the first place.

Sunday, 3 February 2008

Examining self-harm in the Asian community

A DVD has been launched to help young people struggling with self-harm.

Why is this relevant to us and just how serious is the situation?

According to the BBC, research shows that young South-Asian women between the ages of 15 and 35 are twice as vulnerable to suicide and self-harm as non-Asian women.

Statistics show that East London has one of the biggest Asian communities in the country. Newham has the second highest proportion of Asian population in England and Wales, with the second largest proportion of Bangladeshis in England and Wales (Tower Hamlets leads in both these statistics).

Additionally, a study of young Asian women in east London by the Newham Asian Women’s Project last year revealed that domestic violence and a pressure to be the ‘perfect student’ or ‘perfect daughter’ were among the reasons for self-harm.

Is it that belonging to these communities is more stressful than others or is it
that there is less help available to them?

NAWP says young Asian women have consistently requested help on the issue of self-harm.

Professionals who work closely with them have also stated the need for better tools to use when discussing the issue, and hence the launch of the DVD.

NAWP launched the DVD, called Everybody Hurts, to address issues like why people self-harm and the support available.

NAWP also has a project called Zindaagi which is dedicated to helping Asian women in East London who are self-harming.

Certain customs in the Asian community have been known to cause the young women distress too.

A study by the mental health charity Mind says that many of the Asian women who attempt suicide do it because of cultural reasons, for example, where the young woman is apparently in disagreement with her parents’ or husband’s traditional or religious expectations.

A small organisation like NAWP may not have the capacity to address these traditions, but by launching the DVD it may be able to patch up the after-effects.

Monday, 28 January 2008

Child slaves raid and the perception of Eastern Europeans

Last week the Met Police carried out pre-dawn raids in Slough where they rescued children from a Romanian trafficking gang.

These children were trained to steal and beg.

Recently, police conducted several raids on homes in East London.

According to the Times, they burst into a small terraced house in Ilford (Redbridge) and found 27 Romanian Gypsies, 16 of whom were children, some as young as 4 months, from several families, sleeping in the bedrooms, lounge and even the kitchen.

No doubt, many issues will emerge from this raid: how big is the actual scale of the trafficking? Is it happening next door to me? Will these children ever be re-united with their families – do they want to be? etc.

It’s also possible that people in East London, like other parts the country, may stereotype Romanians and other Eastern Europeans as smugglers, thieves and beggars.

The Romanian Cultural Institute says that they are perceived negatively – think orphaned-children, stray dogs and too-eager migrants – and less for their arts & heritage highlights.

There are many Romanians and Eastern Europeans living in East London.

Most of them work hard and live peacefully; they should not be painted with the same brush as their countrymen involved in the Slough raid.

What will it take to change society’s negative perception of Romanians?

Tuesday, 22 January 2008

Local leaders map out Olympics legacy

Plans have been drawn up to make sure that we don't lose out after the 2012 Olympics Games.

We know millions - and the figure is growing taller - will be put into the Games.

Leaders from the five London host boroughs of Greenwich, Hackney, Newham, Tower Hamlets and Waltham Forest have asked the government for a firm financial commitment to ensure that the Olympic Park venues (pictured) are viable after the Games.

They also asked for funding to meet the extra demands that the Games will put on council services.

Already some of these boroughs are battling to provide basic council services and it’s easy to see why it baffles councillors as to how they’ll cope during and after the games.

They presented their concerns to the Government Select Committee on
preparations for the Olympic and Paralympic Games in 2012 last week.

The host group say they are pushing for local people to have a say in the long term future of the London 2012 Games.

And talking of what people are saying about the Games, the
London Paper says there’s controversy over plans to remove eight statues (including one of Sir Winston Churchill) to create a pedestrianised piazza in time for the Olympics.

Apparently the plans by Swiss designers, Vogt Landscape Architects, have not gone well with English Heritage, which insists that the statues must not be moved.

Monday, 14 January 2008

The trials of bus journeys in these ends

A friend has just told me she feels very safe on London buses because they have cameras.

People like her are getting harder to find.

Notwithstanding the increase in the number of CCTV cameras that Transport for London has placed on buses, a London Assembly report released on Friday says the rate of crime remains higher than two years ago and passengers feel less safe on buses than on other mode of public transport.

Transport for London has slammed this report as miselading.

One of the main bus routes in East London is the bus 25, running from Oxford Circus to Ilford.

It is also one of the most notorious routes in London: from 2003 – 2006 it generated the highest numbers of bus crime reports.

Other main routes in the East End i.e. the 8 and 86 also feature on the list.

I’ve witnessed some criminal fights on the 25, and some nasty incidents.

More recently, an elderly man was amlost badly beaten by a youth who happened to be sitting next to me.

Out of nowhere, the youth began swearing the man and shouting stuff like: ‘You’re a Polish immigrant! Get out of our country …’

The old man tried, in the best English he could muster, to indicate that he was sorry for ‘offending’ the youth and begged to be left alone.

This was not enough for the youth, who got even more aggressive. He stood on the seat and pointed to his ankle:

‘Do you see what’s on my ankle?’ he shouted proudly, ‘It’s a mark that says “East London!”’

As he smoked his cigarette, he continued swearing and then ordered the old man to get off and have a ‘proper’ fight with him.

As the old man quietly digestested this drama, the youth suddenly spat at him.

All the while the bus was moving and, of course, the cameras were rolling.

Monday, 7 January 2008

This could be the year for small voices

As thousands of people geared to celebrate the new year, a small group of traders at Queens Market in Newham met to demonstrate against plans to demolish the place and put up flats and a new market.

Called Friends of Queens Market, the group says Newhams Council’s plans will hit poor and ethnic people most.

Newham Council says a new Equality Impact Assessment will be undertaken in the future.

The traders are quite brave to challenge big development plans in a borough buzzing with regeneration, possibly for the sake of the 2012 Olympics.

Already leisure centres are being revamped and a zero carbon residential scheme has been launched in the Royal Docks.

As we enter 2008, there are broader challenges facing most boroughs in East London such as unemployment, crime and housing.

Will those in authority listen to a group of market traders who are challenging big plans? There’s a chance they will.

In 2007 disadvangted people that were ignored in the past were heard – and even helped.

For example, last month the government announced a programme to boost the number of role models for young black men. The move is an outcome of a REACH report which states that often, their role models are rap stars who glamorise guns.

Also, the London Development Authority deceided to fund a development scheme for hundreds of blind and partially visually impaired people to get help start and sustain a business.

The friends of Queens Market have been campaigning for a while now, and I’d like to believe 2008 will be the year things change for the traders and the many struggling voices in East London.