Over 300 people gathered in Hackney to reassert the positive community spirit of the area in the face of the recent riots. The community tea party, which was organised by St John at Hackney Church, was timed exactly a week after the trouble broke out and took place on Clarence Road, which was badly affected by the riots.
The news item about this event is here.
The Revd Betsy Blatchley, who is Vicar of St Luke’s Hackney and a relative newcomer to Hackney, has written about this event, and other ways the church communities have responded to last week’s riots.
“Last Monday (8th August) instead of a relaxed coffee with Fr Rob Wickham, Rector of Hackney, as part of my ‘welcome to Hackney’ I found myself in the midst of the riots in Hackney town centre. We avoided ‘missiles’, talked to residents, local business people, police and looters, watched cars burn and most of all prayed for our community. On Tuesday morning we gathered on the steps of the Town Hall with a crowd of about 200 who had, mostly, come to offer their help in the ‘clean-up’ (which had actually been undertaken with great efficiency by the local authority).
“We walked down Mare Street and Clarence Rd and stood for a two minute silence as a sign of peace and solidarity with the people of Hackney. In the days that followed it was both saddening but also a great privilege to spend time walking the streets of Hackney with other clergy, and with the new Bishop of Stepney, listening to people’s stories, hearing their anger or confusion, and mulling on the whole range of possible solution that were being offered.
“On Wednesday lunchtime a Community Prayer Vigil was held in the grounds of St John at Hackney, which was attended by many residents, church and other faith leaders, community leaders, police and local politicians. We listened to Fr Rob Wickham, The Bishop of Stepney, Meg Hillier MP, the Speaker of the Council and, maybe most affectingly, a young representative of TELCO London Citizens’ City Safe project all speak of their feelings in relation to the events of Monday night.
“Today, a week on (Monday 15th August), the local churches are coming together again with local shopkeepers, community and residents associations to host a Community Tea on Clarence Road, where some of the worst of the violence and destruction were seen, and where the local newsagents was completely trashed and looted. The hope is that this simple event – serving tea and cakes – will provide an opportunity for many different groups in the community to come together to tell their stories and listen to each other. Between 5-6pm – just when, last Monday, so much anger, conflict and destruction was spilling out onto the streets of Hackney – we hope that today people will be able to draw a little close to their ‘neighbours’ as fellow human beings and simply enjoy each other’s company.”