Jonathan Fryer

Writer, Lecturer, Broadcaster and Liberal Democrat Politician

Posts Tagged ‘Bethnal Green’

Road to 2012: Facing East

Posted by jonathanfryer on Friday, 10th August, 2012

photos by Joe Bullock and Lucas Seidenfaden

Many of us who live in London’s East End viewed the hosting of this summer’s Olympics and Paralympics with a certain trepidation. And it is true that the Central Line — the quickest way for me to get into the centre of town from my home in Mile End — is hecticly busy at the moment all through the day. The only consolation of having to stand in sweltering conditions in the train is the extraordinary array of often quite beautiful people from all over to world to look at, for every taste. Anyway, though the Games are not quite over yet I think it’s fair to say that they have been a triumph. Moreover, as someone who has little interest in sport, for me the associated Cultural Olympiad, now culminating in the London 2012 Festival, has been spectacular. I have only managed to get to a few events, but they have been varied and stimulating. This morning I went to Four Corners in the Roman Road in Bethnal Green, a centre for film and photography that is currently hosting an exhbition of photos ‘Road to 2012: Facing East’. The work on display is by students in Fine Art and Photography at the University of East London and focuses on how the Games have impacted on the area, particularly Newham. There is an interesting variety of approaches, from Joe Bullock’s take on some of the characters who usually frequent the Lee Valley to Johanna Lees’ portraits of residents of one Stratford Street — all caught looking grave, or at least ambivalent. Contributors to the exhibition come from countries as varied as Cyprus, Germany, Estonia and the United States, with a range of styles and moods which means at least one will really appeal to any viewer. The exibition at Four Corners runs until 9 September and is a London 2012 Festival Project in partnership with the National Potrait Gallery and BT.Link: www.fourcornersfilm.co.uk

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Stairway to Heaven

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 4th March, 2012

The Bethnal Green tube station disaster of 3 March 1943, in which 173 people were crushed to death as they rushed down the stairs into the air-raid shelter that was housed below, was largely hushed up at the time, so as not to give propaganda material to the Germans. And even when I moved to Tower Hamlets in 1985, no-one talked about it. It was as if there was a collective reluctance to face up to the fact that there had been such catastrophic loss of human life for no reason other than human error; someone tripped on the stairs and the rest piled up on top of them. Some people did escape; indeed, one gentleman, Alf Morris, who was a young lad at the time, shared testimony today at a remembrance service at St John’s on Bethnal Green, recounting how a woman air-raid warden pulled him out by his hair. This weekend saw the 69th anniversary of the tragedy, which might not seem a particularly important date that would bring out people in their hundreds, despite bitter cold and heavy rain. But this year is special, as the long-mooted memorial to the dead — Stairway to Heaven — has now been started, on a site right by the fateful tube station entrance, just opposite the church. Enough funds have been raised by the Stairway to Heaven Memorial Trust to finance Phase 1, which includes the base and the plynth, on which all 173 names of the dead will be inscribed, from 14-year-old Betty Aarons to 13-month old John Yewman. When more money comes in, the Trust will be able to give the green light to the inverted staircase that will form the upper part of the monument, as seen in the artist’s impression. It was good to see a number of Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats at the service this afternoon, including Bethnal Green North Councillor Stephanie Eaton and City and London East GLA candidate Richard Macmillan (see photo). Representatives of other political parties were there too, of course, as well as the ceremonial mayor (Speaker) of Tower Hamlets, Councillor Mizanur Rahman Chaudhury. And although the service was predominantly Christocentric, Leon Silver, President of the East London Central Synagogue, gave one of the addresses.

Link: www.stairwaytoheavenmemorialtrust.org

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London Riots

Posted by jonathanfryer on Tuesday, 9th August, 2011

As I write this, the Prime Minister David Cameron is chairing the civil contingencies committee, COBRA, summoned to discuss what to do about the three days of rioting in London (and some elsewhere) that have shocked the nation. Though unrest began in Tottenham, following a police shooting, yesterday it spread across much of the city in copycat outbursts, with some agitators reportedly egging people on via their Blackberries. Croydon, of all places, was the worst hit. A furniture store was set alight there and the blaze soon spread to surrounding buildings. The tramlink was seriously damaged and some cars and buses torched, as has happened in several other places. Here in Tower Hamlets, where I live, violence was limited to the western Whitechapel/Bethnal Green end, with many Asian youths reportedly repelling the rioters. Similarly, in parts of Hackney, Turkish and Kurdish shopowners and their families fiercely defended their properties and livelihoods. The police were clearly overstretched, leading to calls from some quarters for the army to be sent in. Let us hope it does not have to come to that. The Government, stupidly, failed to field anyone on BBC2’s ‘Newsnght’, thus allowing Labour’s Mayoral hopeful Ken Livingstone free rein to blame it for the turmoil (though his performance was so opportunistic that he might have lost, rather than won, support for himself). UKIP leader Nigel Farage stoked the embers by declaring that the riots were the outcome of multiculturalism, thereby playing into the hads of the EDL and other racist groups. Actually, the events of the past few days have given some credence to David Cameron’s mantra about ‘Broken Britain’, though whether his Big Society concept can mend it is another matter. Confronted with the damage and the thuggery, I suspect that most of the public will be in the mood for a crackdown, including heavy penalties for looters and arsonists. It will be the political Right that ultimately benefits from all this, not the Left, as some Leftists hope.

 

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A Baishakhi Mela

Posted by jonathanfryer on Sunday, 23rd May, 2010

This afternoon I joined many thousands of my Bengali neighbours at the annual A Baishakhi Mela in Weavers Fields, Bethnal Green. I missed the parade in Brick Lane but the Fields and adjacent Allen Gardens were a swirling mass of people listening or dancing to various groups brought over from Bangladesh or based locally, a mini-funfair and dozens of stalls of various kinds. Negotiating the prams and crowds of excited chidren was at times a challenge. I stopped for a while at the Tower Hamlets Council’s stand for encouraging recycling and thought that they could probably start by recycling the huge numbers of restaurant flyers and other glossy leaflets that were being handed out to people as they flooded in to the event, only to be cast to the ground a few yards further on. Several of the neighbourhood’s Koolest Kids were out strutting their stuff, many in headbands based on the design of the Bangladesh flag (a red spot on a dark green background). Saggies seemed to be the order of the day for weekending schoolboys. It would have been fun to witness some of them running into their schoolteachers.

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Taking on Poplar and Limehouse

Posted by jonathanfryer on Thursday, 26th November, 2009

This evening, at a packed AGM of Tower Hamlets Liberal Democrats at Oxford House in Bethnal Green, I was adopted as the LibDem PPC for my home constituency of Poplar and Limehouse (new boundaries, having lost all the bits in Newham). It’s an extraodinary seat, illustrating both the huge diversity of London and also the yawning gap between rich and poor. It also looks like being a right royal battleground at the forthcoming general election, not only because the sitting Labour MP, Farming and Food Minister Jim Fitzpatrick, annoyed the large local Muslim community a while back by walking out of a Muslim wedding because he couldn’t sit next to his wife, but also because ‘Gorgeous’ George Galloway (Respect) is trying to move over from his current perch in neighbouring Bethnal Green and Bow. So we can expect some vigorous campaigning and lots of media attention. Having first moved into the area in 1985, I have seen huge changes — some good, some bad — and whatever the result at the end of it, I am determined to enjoy the next six months or so and to be part of a LibDem renaissance in Tower Hamlets.

Link: http://tower-hamlets-libdems.org.uk

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