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Tuesday, September 27, 2016
Faiths work together for a better East End
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¬†A WEST Indian Steel band played outside the 'People's Palace' in Mile End, East London on last night where TELCO (The East London Community Organisation) gathered for their Autumn Assembly. About 1,000 people attended, including Bishop of Brentwood Patrick McMahon, Siraj Salekin from the East London mosque and representatives from many East London churches, mosques, synagogues, schools and community groups. Special guests on the platform were London's mayoral candidates - their first outing together since shortlisting: Frank Dobson, Ken Livingstone and Liberal Democrat candidate Susan Kramer. (Glenda Jackson, the former Minister of Transport, didn't make it - she was caught in a traffic jam.) The quick-paced, party atmosphere was deceptive. The evening was highly organised and focussed. No speaker was allowed more than four minutes. A succession of community representatives set out TELCO's agenda interspersed with music including one newly-composed piece from Bernadette Farrell with the Eastern Area Singers and Indian Tabla drumming as well as personal testimonies, poetry and very short dramatic performances. The agenda, put forward by 3,000 East Enders called for: safety on the streets and better relations with police; an end to pollution, a better environment and integrated public transport; new business, jobs and investment in the community; improved health services; and more say for movements like TELCO in the government of London. TELCO is one of several community groups around the country which started up about five years ago and are based on an America model, COF - Citizen Organising Foundation. And they are not just a talking shop. Near the end of Tuesday's meeting Fr John Armitage from Canning Town made an announcement on behalf of the East London Mosque, inviting people to attend a ceremony about a plot of land theyĻve managed to save from development. That was just one example of TELCO's work in East London. Since their formation, they've had hundreds of small successes including cleaning up pollution sites and action to enlarge a play area. They've persuaded East London's Health service to invest an extra two hundred million pounds into the area and run campaigns to stop bank closures and bring in new business. Cardinal Hume attended TELCO's inaugural meeting almost exactly four years ago. He said at the time: "We should be trying to do something for the common good of our society and not just for ourselves. We need to act together and challenge social fragmentation and division. TELCO is a source of hope and encouragement by demonstrating in concrete and practical ways that change is possible and that it can benefit all." He would be proud of TELCO today.
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