Sunday, 14 October 2012


"Master," said John, "we saw a man driving out devils in your name, but as he is not one of us we tried to stop him." Jesus said to him, "Do not stop him, for he who is not against you is on your side." (Luke 9:49)

It's okay, relax. You know that I am a Christian and that I go to church, but I am no theologian and neither am I anything like good enough as a person to even begin to presume to sit in judgement upon others.

But whether you are a Christian, a follower of another religion or indeed of none, it is evident to most people that there are teachings contained in the Holy Book that serve as a useful guide to us in the conduct of our everyday lives. The above quote, delivered to us at our Church this morning by the Revd. John Kafwanka (an Isleworthian!) set me thinking about why it was that, nearly nineteen years ago, I helped found the ICG (then known as the Isleworth Community Group) and why now, in 2012, I continue to give it my support.

Let me approach where I am going from a slightly more contemporary angle. I don't think this will be the first time on this blog that I will have quoted the chorus of the rock epic 2112:

"We are the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx
Our great computers fill Our hallowed halls
We are the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx
All the gifts of life are held within Our walls".

For the disciples, they were the few who had been chosen from amongst the many to answer a special calling, and it must have been galling for them that somebody who was not one of their number was performing successful healing work in the name of Jesus. So they tried to stop him, without any thought of course for the beneficiary of the stranger's good deed.

In the fictitious 2112 the Priests of the Temples of Syrinx were the custodians of all knowledge and happiness, having defeated the Elder Race in a battle for control of the Planets of the Solar Federation. When the boy found the guitar by the waterfall and presented it to them they crushed it nervously underfoot, for it was a relic of a bygone age which had not been under their dominion.

Seasoned local community watchers will know where this article is heading. Whether it is the St. John's residents and their successful campaign to save their community centre, or the organisers of the Brentford Festival, or for that matter the ICG and its many works on behalf of the community of which it is an integral part, any positive acts which have been brought about independently by the community (I believe they call us "plebs") must either be denied or destroyed.

I have reflected recently upon how this mentality continues to prevail in the highest echelons of the local authority in Hounslow. Those who trouble to browse Facebook or the local community forums will have seen how those of us who consider it our mission to empower the grass roots have continued to be abused and vilified, even in our attempted "post political" incarnation.

Demonstrably it is not because we stand, but because of what we stand for.

Friday, 12 October 2012

Does it Matter Whose Idea it Was?

The recent news that the highly successful Rainbow Project had been nominated for a national award in recognition of its partnership work between the local authority and tenants across the borough was truly fantastic.

The Community Impact Award, made by the National Housing Federation, recognises work undertaken in neighbourhoods by active residents. As I write there is no news as to whether the Project won the award last night in the face of some stiff competition from other projects in other boroughs.

Under the circumstances it may appear churlish for me or anybody else to be concerned about wherein lies the "credit" for the Rainbow Project initiative. On a local community internet forum myself and one or two others have been jokingly anticipating the announcement by the present administration at the London Borough of Hounslow, probably through Ruth Cadbury's blog (to which I have referred rather too much recently already), that this was an initiative devised and managed by the Hounslow Labour Party and by her in particular. This would follow a long-established pattern of behaviour, seen most recently in an attempt to steal the plaudits for the success of the resident-led campaign for funding for the repair of the roof at the St. John's Community Centre in Isleworth (which Labour had originally opposed!).

No such claim has yet appeared on the blog - presumably she, like me, has been awaiting the final outcome of the award, and in the event this article may indeed pre-empt such a move.

The Rainbow Project was, as most people who take an interest in these things are aware, first mooted in 2008 under the previous council administration and formally launched following the HRA (Housing Revenue Account) Budget meeting of 2009. This of course happened on the watch of an ICG Lead Member for Housing (myself as it happens), against a certain amount of protest from some individual Labour councillors who felt we were committing too much of residents' money to causes identified by residents. There was an attempt by them to amend the motion introducing the Project so as to bring the management of funding bids under their own control via the Hounslow Homes Board, over which despite being in opposition they still wielded a disproportionate amount of influence. This attempt to subvert the spirit of the Project was thwarted by a majority on Borough Council.

A clue to the importance of correctly identifying the source of this initiative lies in the terms attached to the award, notably that its purpose is to "recognise the vast range of work being done in neighbourhoods by active residents".

In other words it is the success of the community itself, not the political stewardship of the Rainbow Project, which is being considered for recognition.

Any attempt at "ownership" by a political party or administration would be in direct contravention of the whole spirit of the award, and indeed of the Rainbow Project itself.

The Rainbow Project was inspired by tenants themselves, whose idea it was from the outset. We as a Community Group serving as part of a coalition administration merely put the meat onto the bones of the idea and presented it - first to Hounslow Homes and then to Borough Council - on the community's behalf.

Let us hope that this important fact, as well as the Project itself, can for once at last be recognised.