Ilford Group helps Hackney square come together.

East Ilford Betterment Partnership was asked to help with a small community event in another area of London. The event was held at Dalston on Gillett Square on the 25th and 26th August 2018. The Square has long been known for its trouble with violence and drugs and having seen some of our earlier work the square management team from Hackney Co-operative Developments (HCD) asked if we could help with a ‘Unity Fest’.

With few contacts in the area EIBP had to improvise and connected with groups such as ‘Play to Learn UK’ and Afrospot and British Paksitani Christian Association who were already in touch with HCD.

The event included face-painting and some science experiment workshops from which participating children could create slime, from household products. We also organised an open mic session so that people from the local community could showcase their talent and come to gether in an atmosphere of fun.

One of our volunteers also provided free DJ services for the whole event creating a wonderful festival of music and colour.

Families who attended the event were impressed with the overall event and many subscribed to our email distribution list, to ensure they could return to future events. All the EIBP volunteers involved in the face-painting and scince workshop were amazed at the number of participating children. It seems that the event was bringing out families to an area where usually they would not attend.

The open mic session was a bit stangnat so Wilson Chowdhry, led by singing a Bob Marley song, which went down a treat and created a large audience. Other acts soon followed and some of them were extremely exciting to watch. The language used by some of the performers was not always of the best choice but each performance was appreciated and a sense of unity began to resonate through the square.

A rare performance by Wilson Chowdhry just to get things started.

One Asian woman who was passing from Chelmsford asked for some Bhangra music and this caused people of all backgrounds to get up and dance, which was a moment of great fun. The Asian Woman is a DJ and has offerde a free Asian slot at our next event which will no doubt create a wonderful atmosphere.

EIBP held a friendship centre were people could obtain a free drink and have a chat. Some of the dark stories people shared were difficult to palate and speaking to our officers seemed to provide some calm and respite.

EIBP hopes to develop the event and to encourage wider local participation.  Already we are contacted groups like the local Community Voluntary Service to see how best to link in with local groups.

Wilson Chowdhry, Chairman of the EIBP, said:

“Reaching out to the people of Gillett Square was just an amazing opportunity. I took time to speak to the many people form different walks of life, some were students passing through, others an Indian couple who spotted the event whilst attending a local cinema and the majority local residents many under great poverty.

“What they all spoke of was how wonderful the atmosphere expressing a desire to return again. People were amazed at the diverse range of talent hidden in communities and felt that the open mic session was a revelation.

“People shared their stories with me and with other volunteers from the EIBP friendship centre and some have gone through rather hellish lifestyles. For them a comforting word and simple conversation became a moment of solace in a difficult world.

“To be able to be a part of that for me only strengthened my resolve to be involved in more pan-London events like this in the future, where we get to share our expertise with other groups less experienced.

“This event is hopefully the start of much bigger things and an opportunity to reach a community that is in desperate need of hope. Perhaps our small participation can trigger a big change.

Some students passing through dominated the stage for about an hour. It was all in good fun and the community got behind them.

Some local lads who would otherwise have been involved in very different activities created a good vibe at the event.

local people showcased their hidden talents.

Often with few chances to perform before local people the locals really got involved. This young lady spoke to us afterwards and shared how she always felt aloof from society but the rapturous applause she got helped build her sense of self-worth.


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