The Clarence Road Tea Party was a roaring success on Monday August 15. Organised by local residents, and heavily supported by people from four local churches, tea and cakes were dispensed to several hundred people, thanks to a generous donation by the local Marks & Spencer store. Local shops boiled up urns of hot water. Hackney Council gave permission for the road to be closed.
It was one week to the hour since the violent disturbance took place in the same spot. Spontaneous dancing in the street with hula hoops took over, young children expressed their view of things in chalks on the ground, and the rest of the community put their views on post-it notes and pinned them to a community noticeboard, and had good chat. Feedback on that later.
Nearly £500 was raised at the Street party for the Save Siva Fund, to help the Clarence Convenience Stores get back on its feet after looting – the fund now stands at £22,000 raise since last Thursday.
Fr Rob Wickham, Rector of St John at Hackney, said: “We suggested the idea of an afternoon tea to bring the whole community, including local residents, businesses and faith communities, together exactly one week on from the Hackney riots. Last week Clarence Road was a place of destruction, this week, I pray, Clarence Road was a place of hopeful healing.”
Cllr Ian Rathbone, Chair of the Friends of Siva group, said: “I think we all felt that this was a reclaiming of the street for all parts of the community to move about freely. This is the first stage of ensuring that people do feel safe, and that they also feel listened to and have some ownership over what happens in their area.”
He added: “We will now be looking to further events to help us move on from the situation and begin to discuss and explore how we feel, what the issues are and how we can tackle them. We are looking to the future with hope for this area. Lots of Hackney people are coming forward to help.”
Steve Lord, Chair of Pembury Tenants and Residents Association, said: “We welcome the street party. We have already had events this week on the estate to help people talk to one another and share problems. This will help us to build up better relationships in the wider area and support our local shops. They’re the place where people meet and they’re important. Let’s have more street parties!” Pembury is the public housing estate alongside Clarence Road.
The hope is that people will continue talking together, and begin to work on ways of taking the local community forward from the disruption of the disturbances. Already new ideas and relationships have sprung up. Two local community groups will meet together to discuss ideas. A community conference is being spoken of.
Everyone is looking forward to the day when Siva Kandhia’s shop re-opens and proves that what the looters did last week by trashing his shop, has strengthened and energised the community’s resolve to live in unity and let people run their businesses in peace. Siva commented: “I have been overwhelmed by people’s support. I’ll be back and back soon!”
All photos by Tony Pletts