They were here 20 years ago. They are here 20 years after.
20 years ago there was an organiser called Neil Jameson, who had to have as many one to one face to face meetings as possible in East London. There was no hidden agenda this disciple of Civil Society and Democracy was carrying with him. He was all about getting the East End organised. “Organising was what East London needed most in those days as it does need it now” says Bishop Paul McAleenan, who was a local priest at St. Scholastica's in Clapton 20 years ago and now the Bishop of the Diocese of Westminster. Bishop Paul was there 20 years ago at the founding assembly and he has once again come back to join the 1000 strong delegates to celebrate the 20th year anniversary of The East London Citizens Organisation (TELCO).
Bishop Paul McAleenan of the Diocese of Westminster addressing the assembly
The founding assembly took place at York Hall in Bethnal Green and it felt great for many including Rev Paul Regan, Fr. John Armitage, who was the co-chair of the founding assembly, Dr. Muhammad Bari, and many other veterans to go back to the same hall on Thursday 9th March 2017 to witness history unfolding.
The 20th anniversary was an opportunity to see democracy in action; opportunity to see unity in diversity; an opportunity to show case what civil society can do to address the challenges it faces in an organised way; opportunity to see civil society holding the state and the market to account; but also an opportunity to rebuild and re-energise the East End and start yet another march towards securing social justice through organising. "Divisions in our societies across West seem to be deepening. Yet we are here this evening to recognise TELCO as an organisation which has built bridges, not walls" - Rev Paul Regan.
This anniversary is a product of many months of organising, a series of meetings, a series of agreements and disagreements, a series of plotting and democratic engagements. Organising needs patience, endurance, tenacity, leadership and it is one that should be fun. That was what we saw on Thursday the 9th of March.
At the heart of this anniversary were the organisers and community leaders who had to make sure everything was in place. They won’t leave anything to chance and hence had to prepare for every eventuality. It needed meticulous planning and readiness with proper fall-back positions. That is why we had organisers like Emmanuel, Yasmin, Caitlin and Daniel who were all doing their bits to see the assembly through. That is why we had the Bernadette Harris of TELCO, the John and Naomi Cliftons of the East End, the Angus Ritchies of our world and many other veteran leaders who had to sit day in day out to plan this wonderful occasion. After all it is about organising. Organising is not about them; rather it is about US together. Neil Jameson, the Founder and Executive Director of Citizens UK paid tribute to all who made the long journey with TELCO. He said the following, "Our member institutions are our greatest asset and our leaders are the glue which hold everything together. Here is to 20 more years of power, action and justice".
Kudos to all who made the founding of TELCO a success 20 years ago. Kudos to all who have travelled the long journey together. Kudos to all who contributed their bits and made the day historical. Kudos to the kids, the young, the seniors and everybody who made it to the assembly.
Organise, Organise and Organise. It was the call then; it is the call now. Keep organising, keep marching together and of course keep winning. Empowered Are The Organised!