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.


Rowan joyce said...

Cheer up Phil. It's Christmas!
Point taken though.
For me the important thing is to get people together and talking and believing that effective and positive change is possible : indeed essential.
Inspiring Isleworth isn't just for Christmas, the Chrsitmas market was just the start, come on, get involved, your input would be much appreciated - politics are left at the door - I believe the enemy is bureaucracy, apathy, inertia, red tape, inefficiency and cynicism.

Phil Andrews said...

Hey Rowan, I'm as happy as a sand boy (whatever one of them is). I was very impressed by last week's event and wanted to thank you, in my capacity as a local resident, and all those involved, for the hard and time-consuming work that must surely have gone into it.

There's no politics where I'm concerned, in fact my whole political outlook is dictated by an absence of politics - if that makes any sense. I just remain unconvinced that that is a view taken by everybody, and it would be such a shame if the great work of the group were to be hampered in any way at all by anybody who sought to make II a cause celebre for any particular political cause as this would inevitably have the effect of introducing frictions and, eventually, driving good people away.

I would love to help out with the project. Just let me know what you want me to do. Something of this magnitude and with the potential that II has needs the whole community on board, pulling together as one. But then that, as I know you know, has long been my goal anyhow.

Anonymous said...

According to a letter in the Chronicle (another false ID?) Sue Sampson did all the work behind this event. No rebuttal from the ctte so either she did do all the work or someone who did is happy for her to take all the credit. Dont see how there's no political agenda if thats the case, just my oppinion

Kelly Taunton said...

No offence Phil Andrews but Inspiring Isleworth Christmas Market was done without your help and your people. Inspiring Isleworth wants to show the community doesn't need the ICG and we showed that on Dec 7. You ICG are sooooooo out of here lmfao

Phil Andrews said...

@ Anonymous 22/12/13 17:46

Several of the people involved with II are members of the Labour Party. There's nowt at all wrong with that in itself, but this fact, coupled with the sudden interest in promoting community initiatives from members of a local party which has sometimes quite viciously tried to suppress them in the past, has led some of my colleagues to suggest there may be another agenda at play.

If there is, that other agenda may be to use this "good news" initiative as cover while the councillors themselves get to work closing down the less glamorous but more essential tenets of local community organisation - public halls and so on. Let's face it, it's happening already with IPH!

Ergo, the correct thing for the ICG to do, both morally and politically, is to support II with complete sincerity whilst keeping alive the resistance to closures and other politically-motivated attacks on the capacity of our community to organise.

In fact that should be our approach whatever the thinking behind II. There is no good reason why one organisation shouldn't take the lead in celebrating what is great about Isleworth whilst another leads the fight to conserve those very same things. Works for me.

Merry Christmas all.

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