Tuesday, 17 December 2013

New Group Inspires Us to Fight On

Last week saw one of the most spectacular events ever to take place in Isleworth, certainly within my living memory. An idea which had taken shape amongst a group of local people – initially, it would seem, young mothers focused around a popular local street-corner cafĂ© – bloomed into a massive public display of initiative and community spirit under the banner of Inspiring Isleworth of a kind which I and my colleagues in the Independent Community Group always knew lay latent within the soul of our village. A Christmas Market, stalls, an ice rink, children's rides, a land train and much more besides turned a cold December day into a wonderful celebration of unity and togetherness. By all accounts police estimates placed the total number of people in attendance at a staggering 2,500.

The ICG as an organisation played no part in this superbly successful day, although many of our members were involved, either in a personal capacity or, in some cases, as representatives of other organisations which were involved. Had we been asked we would, of course, have been happy to have played our part, although I doubt there would have been much we could have added that the organisers did not already have firmly in hand. It was enough for us to marvel at the achievements of others, who did Isleworth so proud.

In saying all this I am not oblivious to the fact that, for a very small number of people, the object of the whole exercise appeared to be to use the event to try to raise the profile of and to promote one of the Isleworth Labour ward councillors, whose name was surreptitiously added to the event’s promotional posters against the will of many of its participants and bandied around Facebook and in letters to local newspapers. I am aware also that this councillor, to her credit, certainly did contribute a great deal to the event, if not to the extent that her small but apparently well-disciplined group of supporters would like us to believe.

But notwithstanding these strictly limited attempts to politicise and otherwise distract the occasion from its primary function, nothing must be allowed to detract from the magnitude of last week’s success. In the struggles that lie ahead for us as a community, anything which brings people out into the streets in such a spirit of harmony and mutual endeavour is something to be nurtured, and I dearly hope that this celebration will be repeated in future years.

Of course, once the party is over and the inevitable debris is cleared away, the questions which taxed us as a community before the event remain to be answered. The ongoing farce of the London Borough of Hounslow’s increasingly desperate – and, it would appear, unsuccessful – attempts to give away our Public Hall is still in full flow. The fear of library closures and “disposal” of our community buildings still returns with the approach of every new budget meeting. Traffic engineers still wreak havoc on our highways and our residents’ and tenants’ groups remain under sustained attack. The threat of aesthetically poor and unsustainable development still looms large over Brentford like a great dark cloud. Mogden still smells.

The challenge for us as community activists is to ensure that projects such as Inspiring Isleworth not only continue to be successful, but also that they serve as a compliment to our less pretty but frankly more essential campaigning work rather than being allowed, as some of our political leaders would prefer, to become a distraction from the everyday problems that affect us as a community, and a panem et circenses replacement for the struggles in which we are engaged.

After all a celebration, even a superbly crafted one of the kind we saw last week, becomes singularly redundant when there is nothing left to celebrate.