As I write, we’re waiting for the results of Newham’s European, Councillor and Mayoral elections. Through elections such as these, many people channel their desire to serve our communities and deliver improvements to our area. I pay tribute to their public service.
Having spent eighteen years as a councillor in Newham, I know, first-hand, what hard work that is and the challenges involved. I also know how rewarding it feels when a local campaign pays off and makes a real, positive difference locally.
The “real deal” community activist is epitomised by the late Connie Hunt, whom I first met in the 1980s. London City Airport was being planned as the regeneration solution for the south of Newham. Connie campaigned robustly for an alternative approach. She chaired “The People’s Plan” for the Royal Docks, which called instead for mixed development to create housing, jobs, schools, transport and leisure facilities for local people. It was Connie and that campaign which brought me into Newham politics. She encouraged me to get involved and coaxed me into speaking at the public enquiry. I was 22. It was really nerve-wracking.
Connie fought on big issues, but she knew what would make a difference on a smaller scale, too. She knew that many women in North Woolwich didn’t own their own washing machines. Doing the weekly wash meant choosing between catching two buses to the nearest launderette, or lugging their linens through the tunnel to South Woolwich: and back again. Connie fought for, and secured, a community launderette, soon to become a hub for advice, a chat or just some company.
The salt of the earth and a truly good human being, Connie never stood for elected office. Neither did she stop working for others. Our communities are all the better for having people like Connie in their midst. Connie will be sadly missed.
Let’s use her memory to value and commend others like her, who speak up for the powerless, challenge the powerful, who are generous with their time and who champion the best interests of our areas and the families that are our communities.