Back on 12th August 2008 I commented on this blog in an article entitled "Seeing the Bigger Picture", following a visit to the London Mela in Gunnersbury Park: "Imagine 75,000 people attending a St. George's Day festival, bedecked with English flags and populated by British people of all cultural and ethnic backgrounds, with food, music and dance from South Asia, China, the Caribbean, as well as from the UK. A festival which would flaunt the proud Englishness of the diverse society which we enjoy today. What better way could there possibly be of putting across the message that we are an integrated community, contemptuous of prejudice and disharmony, diverse yet cohesive, brought together by the common values that unite us in a society in which Everybody Matters?"
Almost two years later, thanks largely to the efforts of my dynamic ward colleague Councillor Paul Fisher who is also the council's Lead Member for Community Engagement, residents of Ivybridge will be one of several communities in the local area that will be staging parties to celebrate St. George's Day with the support of the Isleworth & Brentford Area Committee (IBAC).
And here's the exciting bit - the Somali community, now thoroughly integrated into the residents' movement on the estate, has offered to play a leading role in the celebrations, which will stress the sense of common identity that people from different backgrounds enjoy on the estate and throughout our local area.
It is a source of great pride to me that these relatively recent arrivals to our village have become organised and contribute vociferously to our local community life. Their leaders pull no punches in highlighting areas of specific concern to Somalis as a group, but what really is encouraging is their desire and determination to play a full and active role in the life of the wider community also. Their ethos is one which strikes at the very heart of what Community Cohesion is about - eradicating disadvantage whilst encouraging responsibility and a sense of citizenship amongst their own.
The old ways, which encouraged separation and suspicion with a view to garnering votes from perpetually weak and frightened minorities, have been well and truly consigned to the scrapheap.
The key to reclaiming St. George's Day from the far-right is not to suppress it, but to re-present it an the image that is appropriate to the age in which we live. As a celebration of a diverse and tolerant England it provides us with a powerful tool for driving the Cohesion agenda forward.