Tuesday, June 15, 2010

Hackney Unites its residents!

On Saturday 5 June 2010 some four hundred Hackney residents attended Stoke Newington School as part of the Hackney Unites Celebrate Hackney! Event.

Hackney Unites is a local group with members coming from the diverse range of community sectors. People have dedicated their time and effort to the project since October last year.

The aim of the event was to celebrate Hackney and everything the borough has achieved to date, while at the same time act as a catalyst to link local businesses and community organisations together so that they could work in the interest of local people.

The day was a success with stalls occupied by a range of community based businesses and voluntary organisations such as Open University, Hackney Migrant Centre, HCVS and the Community Empowerment Network. A range of food was on sale – sponsored by local business. One of the major highlights was the first ‘Hackney shorts film festival’ – so aptly named to reflect the range of short films shown throughout the day.

There were some fifteen workshops - all looking at issues that affect Hackney residents, community groups and businesses. The penultimate session on the day covered five key topics: young people and their needs, the struggles against racism and the need to build an effective campaign, the wider concerns with peace and war, community organisation and the need to work collaboratively with other community groups and the workers advice sessions – where community members could obtain basic advice on how to enforce their employment rights in the work place.

Under the coalition Conservative/Lib Dem government there are likely to be major changes to community groups with budget cuts affecting the services they provide. Speaker Andy Benson from the National Coalition for Independence Action detailed some of the impacts these changes may have, such as government becoming directly involved in organisations – affecting their autonomy and their ability to be impartial in the community work they do. Maurice Glassman discussed the work of London Citizens, a local group. Wendy Pettifor galloped though the recent cost cutting measures within the Law Society with the net effect that people in need of legal advice and support are unable to access it. Cathy Reay from Hackney Housing Group explained how their actions are about empowering individual tenants to engage with the processes to improve the quality of their accommodation. Finally Liz Hughes from Haggerston Pool Community Trust detailed their on going battle with the Hackney Council to keep a swimming pool within their local community.

The closing session was facilitated by John Page, secetary of Hackney Unites where initial feedback was extremely positive on the day’s events. I came away with an awareness that the pending cuts to Hackney’s local services will have an unquantifiable impact on Hackney residents and businesses.

By Mz Lashmore

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