East End United

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The march from Stepney Green to Altab Ali park – clergy leading the march included (l to r) Revd Adam Atkinson (Contextual Theology Centre Senior Tutor), Fr Alan Green (Area Dean of Tower Hamlets – in the biretta)  and the Revd Angus Ritchie (Centre Director)

How does a neighbourhood respond when the forces of bigotry and division come to town? The English Defence League (EDL) threatened to come to Tower Hamlets on Sunday – bringing an all-too-familiar blend of and anti-Muslim vitriol and intimidation.

The EDL had picked this date to come to Tower Hamlets, and then discovered a controversial Islamic conference was to be on the same date, at the Troxy (just round the corner from the Royal Foundation of St Katharine, the home of the Jellicoe Community). This became the focus of their action – until Tower Hamlets Council exerted pressure on the Troxy to cancel the event.

The EDL claimed victory, and called their Sunday demo off – but earlier in the week a number of their members were in town, insulting local Muslims and spreading tension and anger.

The community’s reaction? A demonstration with over 2000 local people – and speakers from local churches and mosques, Jewish organisations and trade unions presenting a united front against the EDL. Some of the political speakers felt the need to score points against each other – a regrettable decision on a day which was about stressing what East End residents have in common, not the things which divide them.

And how did it feel? Sometimes rowdy and raw, but almost uniformly peaceful – and in a community where the EDL’s activities have provoked rumours, fear and mistrust, a really important declaration that people of all faiths and backgrounds are willing to turn out to stand up for one another.

The Revd Adam Atkinson and Angus Ritchie (who supervise the Jellicoe Interns in Shadwell) spoke at the rally and Jellicoe intern Ian Bhullar played an important role in organising the Christian turnout. All three are involved in the round-the-year organising that brings Tower Hamlets’ faiths together around issues of common concern. It’s that ongoing work which builds the trust and commitment which was counted for so much on Sunday. That provided an inspiration, and also a challenge – to redouble the organising work so that the people of Tower Hamlets are even more united in trust and hope.

This summer’s team

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Last night, CTC Director Angus Ritchie and Manager Ian Vijay Bhullar briefed this summer’s team of Jellicoe’s interns – a dynamic group of students from Oxford, Cambridge and London who will be developing congregational involvement in community organising.

This summer’s interns and their placement churches are:

Parish of the Divine Compassion, Plaistow & Canning Town – Simon Cuff, Holly Terry & Greg Tucker (Keble, Oxford)
St Mary’s Cable Street and E1 Community Church – Emma Priddin (Trinity, Oxford)
St John-at-Hackney – Jaya Carrier (Balliol, Oxford), Jim Barlow (Cuddesdon, Oxford) and Arabella Milbank (New College, Oxford)
St Mary & Michael RC Parish, Limehouse – Liliana Worth (Wadham, Oxford)
St Paul’s Shadwell – Josh Harris (Keble, Oxford), Ellen Harvey (Magdalen, Oxford) and Alena-Rose Crayden (Heythrop, London)
St Stephen’s RC Parish, Manor Park – Isaac Stanley (Pembroke, Cambridge)
Stepney Salvation Army – Tom Daggett (Lincoln, Oxford)
Trinity Chapel, Beckton – Daniel Stone (St Peter’s, Oxford), Rebecca Fay (Queen Mary, London) and Antonia Adebambo (Magdalen, Oxford)

Back to the roots…

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It has been an amazing few weeks for all of us involved in citizen organising. The May 3rd assembly catapulted the movement into the media limelight, and also yielding substantial relationships with and commitments from the then PM, the new PM and the new Deputy PM! Citizens UK Director Neil Jameson was in No 10 yesterday – and the meeting is reported on our sister blog there.

A key challenge is to convert this excitement back into tangible change at the really local level, That is where our Jellicoe interns come in! Last night, we had our last Community Evening with Megan Dilhoff and Theodore Wold, who return to the US after building significant new links with Catholic parishes in Shadwell & Wapping. They will be much missed, and go with all our thanks and prayers.

Amma Asante continues her work at the University of East London, and Ian Bhullar at St Mary’s Cable Street (and the newly-recruited E1 Community Church). They’ll be joined by around 18 summer interns, focusing mainly on the CitySafe campaign – very local relationship- and trust-building, which is the lifeblood of citizen organising. It’s from this local base that we build up to the amazing national successes – the end of child detention, local mutual banking and a Community Land Trust on the 2012 Olympic site.

Citizens UK in Number Ten

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The follow-up to May 3rd continues tomorrow as Citizens UK Executive Director Neil Jameson attends a round-table with David Cameron and Nick Clegg on the ‘Big Society’. This is an exciting development – and one we hope will lead to further progress on the issues raised at the Assembly.

Our Homes, Our London

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This is a key campaign for the congregations in which Jellicoe interns are placed – one which stands very clearly in the tradition of Fr Basil Jellicoe . The Citizens UK Assembly secured a Community Land Trust on the Olympic site from all three party leaders – while locally, TELCO won backing from Tower Hamlets Council for a Trust on the site of St Clements’ Hospital. Here’s the video that made the case:


Whatever the coalition, Citizens are in relationship

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The Citizens UK Assembly and CTC from Contextual Theology Centre on Vimeo.

CTC has launched a short Vimeo slideshow on last week’s assembly.  In the midst of all the coalition horse-trading, our partner congregations are now in relationship with all the main parties – so whoever is on the Government benches, they will be attending future Citizens UK’s assemblies, answering to the promises made on May 3rd.

What did we win?

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It will take a while for the impact to sink in, but here are some of the key achievements of yesterday’s assembly – and links to media coverage.

The leaders of all the major party agreed…
– to be held to account by Citizens UK – in assemblies and round-table meetings – during the next Parliament
– a Community Land Trust on the Olympic Park after 2012
– caps on exploitative lending and a stronger mutual banking sector

– Labour committed to a Living Wage for Whitehall workers – something the Tories are also looking to fund
– Labour and the Tories committed to reviewing the practice of detaining children seeking sanctuary
– LibDems committed to ending child detention – and to a one-off earned amnesty for undocumented migrants

Today’s Guardian includes Patrick Wintour on front page (‘Battered PM finds his voice’); Allegra Stratton on p. 4 (‘Brown triumphs in unofficial fourth leadership debate’) and Marina Hyde on p. 5 (‘Real people, excruciating stories and a bit of recycling’).  The Telegraph has a sketch on p.8, emphasising the role of faith in the event – ‘Son of the manse in his element among the righteous’.  Online, there’s good coverage from the Finanical Times and Reuters.

The Contextual Theology Centre sponsored this historic event, and our officers, interns and partner churches were heavily involved:
– Fr Sean Connolly (CTC Assistant Director) was interviewed on Channel Four News as he led a pre-assembly study group on our new book Faithful Citizens
– Bethan Lant (St Mary’s, Cable Street) was one of the co-chairs and Fr Rob Wickham (St John-at-Hackney) introduced the assembly
– CTC Tutor Capt Nick Coke (Stepney Salvation Army) told the story of the CitySafe campaign – a key project of Jellicoe Interns
– Dr Luke Bretherton (CTC Fellow) handled some of the key public negotiations with David Cameron
– CTC Director Revd Angus Ritchie spoke alongside low-paid cleaners from the Treasury to present the case for the Living Wage to Gordon Brown – and Senior Tutor Revd Adam Atkinson (St Paul’s Shadwell) handled some of the key public negotiations
– CTC Fellow Mgr John Armitage (St Anne’s, Custom House) gave the final, rousing send-off to the 2500-strong assembly


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