In the summer of 1998 I moved to east London. I was absolutely gobsmacked by the diversity and creativity of the borough I now called home, Tower Hamlets. I fell in love with Whitechapel before I’d walked 10 metres from the Underground. It was a treat to my senses.
When I became a bit more settled and less hysterical from all the excitement (as a boy from a rough council estate in Liverpool where the only culture came from gone-off-milk, Whitechapel seemed a different world!) I started to roam the back streets and explore. That’s when I discovered my new neighbours in Bethnal Green, Mile End, Stepney, Shoreditch, Hoxton, Hackney and beyond.
It all seemed so friendly: everyone I met was up for a laugh and I couldn’t go anywhere without seeing someone I knew. Word got around and the East End got more and more popular – it was a hive for creatives. Even I became an artist.
As the younger people moved in, the older Cockneys started either moving away or keeping away. Then the city folk moved in, pushing the rents and mortgage costs through the roof (pun intended).
Now everything is unrecognisably expensive. The community can feel splintered, despite the vibrancy of Tower Hamlets and Hackney. People still live side by side, but rather than knowing their neighbours, they are often surrounded by strangers. It saddens me to see the changes.
So when I came across the job description for the Programme Coordinator for Social Clubs at East London Cares, it was uncanny. I had goosebumps all over!
As my eyes danced across the words, it kind of felt like someone had created a job for me, taken directly from my own thoughts of what my community is unknowingly crying out for.
To be here from the very start and to work alongside two amazing new colleagues, as well as to belong to the wider Cares Family, who have lots of experience tackling isolation and bridging communities in north London, south London, Manchester and Liverpool, is the best feeling ever!
In my new role, I will be designing, organising and leading our social clubs, where younger and older neighbours can spend time together. We’re already planning an abstract painting workshop, a barge trip, gallery tours, pub clubs and a theatre makeup tutorial. It’s my aim to put together clubs and events that will be inclusive, exciting, interesting, invigorating, and full of skill and story swapping. Above all that though, each time we get together it will be loads of fun and so much more enjoyable than time spent on your Apps or in front of some type of screen.
We all deserve to feel like we belong to the areas where we live. If we just so happen to learn new things, discover other cultures and make loads of new friends in the process, then what could be better?
You can sign up to get involved with our social clubs here – they’ll be starting in October, and taking place across Tower Hamlets and Hackney.
Posted by Craig Mahoney on Tuesday 24th September 2019
Craig is the Programme Coordinator for Social Clubs at East London Cares, designing clubs to bring together younger and older neighbours with fun activities across Hackney and Tower Hamlets. Craig has lived in east London for over twenty years, previously working as an artist and in galleries.