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Inside TWCP: Change that Benefits Everyone – Natalie Ogene

I moved to Thames View in February 2021 with my daughter whilst we were still in the thick of lock down. Whilst getting to grips with our new local area we did a lot of walking as nothing much was open!

Two of the places that we visited often were the Ripple Greenway and Newlands park – both of which were suffering badly with littering. I initially got in touch with our local Councillor to raise awareness of this particular issue and then looked at what other groups were trying to do to make improvements to our wider area. This is how I initially got involved with TWCP.

I started attending local residents meetings and became involved with some working groups. I’m lucky enough to have a small garden and a balcony and I have started gardening (self taught) and find it very therapeutic. My daughter and I have visited the Barking Food Forest and it’s wonderful to support some of the great local initiatives that are happening in the area. 

I see myself as someone who has benefited from the gentrification that has taken place in the area. That gentrification has brought with it some great things like the Uber boat service, new homes and some really lovely parks etc. I do believe gentrification can be a good thing as long as its benefits are felt by old and new residents of the community. That very much fits in with my vision for Thames View and Barking Riverside – that everyone can feel the benefits of the changes happening in the community!

Natalie Ogene

Inside TWCP: Improving Inclusion, Prevention, and Making Change – Almu Segura

I have always, one way or another been involved with working with people. Whether it was through my degree – doing performing arts, theatre in the community or with art organisations. I have worked in residential homes with people with dementia and schools to bring them together, as a teaching assistant with autistic kids, volunteering in City Farms. I have always wanted to work with people, to help them play, laugh, have fun and to have better wellbeing.

I am a local resident and founder of Nice Bunch CIC, a new community interest company that focuses on intergenerational projects to improve the wellbeing of local residents. Through working with residents and local parents, I came across the work TWCP had been doing. I often engaged with them by seeking advice for my social business and attended some of their other events. Most recently, I received a call to be the Lead on their new health outreach programme funded by OHID. I said yes! It is a great opportunity to work with my neighbours and their families. To make a better place for my little one and the little ones around me and the community, in general.

The Healthy Living Club is an inclusive 8-week exercise and nutrition programme for residents in Thames View and Barking Riverside. Primarily focussed on supporting five to twelve-year-olds, the programme is structured to work with the whole family supporting participants to live healthier lifestyles with the support of familiar local community groups delivering the activities and health practitioners.

I would describe the work I currently do as a journey where we are trying to bring funders, the community and the tools that we have; knowledge and expertise, together, to be able to create a healthier community. To improve inclusion, prevention and to even start changing policies.

My vision for Thames View and Barking Riverside is for the area to be a model for change that other cities/boroughs can copy. To show that active listening in the community can bring residents what they really need and can change policy. If we work together, we can create longstanding change. On a smaller scale, I believe in just doing small acts of kindness. Even if it’s just saying good morning to a stranger in the bus stop, even if you make a person smile for a small moment, this simple act can have ripple effects that can help creating a welcoming and nurturing community.

Almu Segura

Inside TWCP – A Flourishing Community – Lai Ogunsola

In 2018, my brother introduced me to Matt Scott, Director of Thames Ward Community Project, TWCP at an informal event in Barking. 
To provide some context. I had moved back to London from Birmingham earlier that year. I previously worked in the Public Health Directorate at Birmingham City Council as a Commissioning Support Officer, prior to my role at the Greater London Authority.
While working in Birmingham, I developed an active interest in community development and regeneration and was keen to learn more about possible developments in Barking. I had seen first-hand the positive impact that community development could have in communities from my involvement in the voluntary sector via Sustrans and other community groups in Digbeth, and Edgbaston. I had discovered Impact Hub Birmingham, which was a social co–working space that empowered residents to make a difference in the city. I was keen to see a similar approach adopted in Barking.
After speaking to Matt and Jamie Kesten, I learned more about the ambitions and ethos of TWCP. The project really resonated with me. I was glad to see a desire to engage constructively with the council and the developers, Barking Riverside London to improve outcomes for residents.
I decided to get more involved as I felt the project was a perfect match for my professional skills and interests. More importantly, I felt that my 20 years of lived experience as a resident in Thames view would allow me to provide insight, historical context, a genuine resident voice and practical suggestions for future work.  
My vision for Thames view and Barking Riverside is that of a flourishing community, with improved health outcomes and education/employment for residents.  
Historically, relatively high rates of unemployment, poor mental health, obesity, anti-social behavioural and a range of other health and social maladies have been an issue in our community. 
I have been exceptionally impressed with our joint work with Barking Council, and the local Clinical Commissioning Group, as well as our collective engagement with a wide range of partners, including the British Red Cross, University College London, The Bromley By Bow Centre, East London Citizen’s UK amongst others to address health inequity in the local area. 
Lai Ogunsola

Member of the TWCP Health & Wellbeing Citizen Action Group

Inside TWCP: A Voice for the People – Romeo Murisa

Thames Ward Community Project represents an opportunity to give a voice for the people, by the people. The events held by them does more than communicate to building connections as it tackles challenges in a unique and impactful way with the aim to find a solution to the root cause of how the community feels.
I first got involved with TWCP by sharing a poem about mental health. The aim of the event was to help connect local residents and help facilitate conversations on the importance of social connection and the promotion of good mental health and wellbeing. This enabled me to share my talents and craft of spoken word, to help create impactful and meaningful conversations within our community. As a local resident, this was a space that contained individuals who share similar views to me but with a deep understanding of our lived experience. Hence, when an opportunity to be involved in the Arts and Culture Action Group with TWCP was presented, I was honoured to be given a chance to give back to the community. To give back through one of the most beautiful and readily available arts, known as spoken word. During this journey of working with the amazing team at TWCP, we have been able to achieve a milestone of creating an event for Black History month, which fused a vibrant palette of music, art, and spoken word. It was great to have written a piece for this to create conversations and hear the audience’s perspective.
As well as this, I have been involved in the fire safety action by writing three unique pieces that I have shared with the members and residents alongside the British Red Cross and the London Fire Brigade, to spark change and highlight our action points. I am excited for the end result for this one as it will help not only our community, but other communities that are at risk due to the lack of fire safety plans being put to action.
My plan for this year is to host writing workshops to allow everyone in our community to gain the ability to put what’s on their minds and heart to paper, because what is written is never forgotten. My ultimate vision is to support local residents that have a passion and talent for spoken word to gain their voice so that their stories can be heard.
Member of the TWCP Arts & Culture Citizen Action Group

Inside TWCP: Power to residents’ voices – Venilia Amorim

Having been an already quite active resident in the community – I joined the Barking Reach Residents Association committee as treasurer in 2016 – Tricia Zipfel, a founder and guardian of the Thames Ward Community Project, asked me and the association’s chair (Pete Mason) if we would like to be part of the interviewing process for the TWCP director’s position in the summer of 2017.

That’s when I met Matt Scott (TWCP director), back in September 2017. I posed hard questions, especially to someone who was new to the area. I wanted to make sure we got the right person for the job, someone who could establish a strong relationship with the local people, who really listened and actioned some of the brilliant ideas local residents had.

Since then I was quickly absorbed into TWCP’s steering board and never looked back.

I knew then – and I know now – that TWCP would be one of the most important projects for Barking Riverside and indeed Thames Ward as a whole. Important in developing residents’ skills, in encouraging entrepreneurship and engagement not only within the community but also with the wider stakeholders such as the council and the Barking Riverside estate developer, Barking Riverside Limited.

Living on the estate – I moved to Barking Riverside eight years ago – and in the borough (for a combined 17 years) has given me an insight of what is most important for residents: a safe and clean environment where people (young and old) can thrive culturally, financially educationally and socially.

Residents want safe and warm homes to live in, without the burden of inoperable heating systems or flammable cladding on walls. They want a consistent transport structure and shops and restaurants. Residents want a GP! One in which it doesn’t take months to get an appointment. Residents want parking spaces but want to be able to enjoy green spaces and clean air! Residents want good schools and activities for the wide diversity of residents as well as worship spaces…

Lots of wants… It’s not an easy task to be a town planner, that’s for sure! But it will be much easier with residents on board, actively making decisions on how best to shape the place they live in and will continue to live in for many years to come. I believe TWCP is a great platform for that. It has made great progress in already so many fields: arts, culture, nature, infrastructure, transport. And it will keep on going. It has and it will always have my support as a resident and as a steering group member.

My main passion is communication – I’m a journalist by trade – and I thrive in clear and open communication, ultimately by residents for the residents. This plays a hugely important part in my vision for Barking Riverside and Thames Ward: a place that is designed and built with local residents in mind, with their wants and needs as top priority.

Venilia Amorim

TWCP Steering Group Member

Inside TWCP: A Year in Post – Zainab Jalloh

Last week, it was my 1-year anniversary as Communications & Outreach Officer here at Thames Ward Community Project, and I couldn’t quite believe it. We choose jobs for a variety of reasons, but I remember vividly late 2020 hoping to take a risk to find a job that gave me time for family, and a job that was closer to what moved me, serving community. I believe in circumstances being timely and purposeful so when I was offered this role, even though changing careers was frightening, a smaller team more exposing, and the initial short-term contract precarious, I took it because it was what I wanted.

It has since been both challenging and incredibly exciting. I sit in my role as a worker but most importantly a local resident of Barking Riverside who emphatically wants to see our area thrive and people really be at the centre of decisions that affect their lives and TWCP exists for that. The heart of Thames Ward Community Project is residents coming together to create action groups and make change: Arts & Culture, Environment, Health & Wellbeing, Housing, Skills & Enterprise, and Young People, and comms plays a huge part.

I’ve been able to heavily support our Barking Food Forest project and seen how important sharing the journey of a project is in building momentum and engaging residents. Even whilst in lockdown, we created social media pages to share our ethos, co-design session plans, and more recently people getting stuck in at events! And I’m learning that that’s what people care about seeing. Real people, real stories, real community building. So my focus this new year is doing more of that.

As a team we’re creating spaces that promote honest dialogue with major stakeholders; the Resident Planning Forum, Community Resilience Project, the Healthy Thames Project, to get our resident voices a seat at the table. And a key vehicle for me to champion real stories is through our now resident-led, community newspaper, “Riverside News.” If you haven’t read it yet take a moment! This is us. The community managing green spaces, supporting local entrepreneurs, building resilience, enjoying street parties and getting behind our young people! We’re a little closer today it seems to having the community we are happy to have our children grow up in, but I don’t just want to sell you positive press.

I want us to have some hard conversations too and to make sure those get heard. At TWCP, I like that we’re not afraid to do that. I’m excited to spend more time this year getting out of my house and meeting you. Collaborating and creating impactful content that turns heads, and gets resources.

Zainab Jalloh

Communications and Outreach Officer at TWCP

Inside TWCP: 78 years in Barking – Allan Thacker

How did I get involved with TWCP & Why? 

Well, just over four years ago, Barking MP Dame Margaret Hodge obtained lottery funding to set up a community project to ensure that residents of the rapidly developing Barking Riverside and Thames View could become involved in the changes that would affect both areas. 

At the time I held the position of chair of Thames View Tenants & Residents association, so along with a colleague was invited to sit on a panel to interview candidates for the project leader. Our choice along with many others recommended Matt Scott for the position, so TWCP was born! I became a “Founders & Guardians” member and later a steering group member. 

TWCP today has gone from strength to strength and its overriding aim is to involve and help residents “have a voice at the table” whether that be with Barking Riverside Limited or LBBD.

My vision for Thames View/ Barking Riverside?

Infrastructure. What I mean is that as Barking Riverside continues to expand over the next ten years, priority is given over to the pressures facing residents. The proposed “Health Hub” is coming, (long overdue), and the rail link is almost complete. We now have an excellent bus service with praise going to the young people of Riverside School for their achievements. The riverboat service to central London is coming, (well done BRL). Tunnelling the A13 is a major priority for residents who regularly have issues leaving and arriving at their homes. 

Transport for London will pick up the bill (£1 billion+)!  It would have been half that 10 years ago. 

So as I enter my 78th year as a Barking resident, lot’s to look forward to. 

Allan Thacker

Resident trustee of TWCP

Inside TWCP: “If you want to go far, go together” – Josiah Oyekunle

Having lived and grown up in Thames View for over 20 years, I have seen many changes in the area and always wondered how one becomes a part of change in the area. How can I be a part of something that is progressive in the area, and where is the opportunity to give back to the community that influenced the person I am today. With all the changes happening, are we building a community that future generations can benefit from and feel a sense of belonging? Do the young people have a voice/platform to be able to be a part of the community or just be labelled as a nuisance to the community. These are a few questions, which were constantly in my mind.

My involvement with TWCP started by being invited to a meeting at Riverside School about the Opera House coming to do workshops in the area. Due to my work as a music producer/DJ I was intrigued as to how this would work in the local area as this was all new to me. This began to spark ideas on whether I could run some music workshops locally. I was introduced to Jamie and had a great conversation where we spoke on the local challenges and concepts of resident-led initiatives, which would allow residents to be a part of shaping the community. This seemed like a perfect solution to some of the questions that I had and as time went on, I became more involved.

My new role as Co-chair

My new role as co-chair, first of all let me say it’s an honour! To be honest I never saw it coming however it a privilege being able to share my views on my community. I never want anyone to feel like I’m the only voice for the community because I’m not. Having lived in the locality I feel I provide a view point that is needed. I too am also in a learning process, which can be daunting but I’m happy to be here serving the community that has shaped me.

The Future of TWCP and Thames Ward

Coretta Scott King once said “The greatness of a community is most accurately measured by the compassionate actions of its members.” My dad always used to tell me this African proverb “If you want to go quickly, go alone. If you want to go far, go together.”

You may ask why I have said this, I feel the residents of Thames Ward have shown where its heart is via the various resident initiatives being set up reaching the community. I believe in order for us to go far together as a community group we need to be on the same page strategically showing how the community voice is heard. If we educate ourselves on the ways we can be solution-focused when talking to partners like the council, developer and other stakeholders, being bold but strategic in our asks to do great things.

I’m really excited to see the growth of TWCP within Thames Ward and the borough, achieving our mission of being a catalyst for sustainable community-led change. That goal may take on different forms and may be subject to change due to the nature of change happening within the borough. I would love to see in the near future community assets being placed in the hands of the community to run. It would be my dream to have a local music studio in order to develop young local talent within the area and provide work experience for those who have career ambitions in the music industry. Ultimately, whatever form sustainable change looks like, at its core it will always place the community first and create a space where resident voice is seen, heard, and valued.

Josiah Oyekunle

Co-chair and resident trustee of TWCP

Inside TWCP: A Part of Positive Change – Anna Pollard

I don’t know about you, but I have never lived anywhere quite like this. As someone with young kids, living on a building site surrounded by big construction vehicles could be living the dream, though I think the novelty even for them has worn off already. As a resident in Thames Ward and more recently in Riverside itself, walking past the different building works most days, the pace of change can be overwhelming. Like so many of us, I want to be part of seeing this community thriving.  

Trying to picture the future so that I can feel a part of it, feels hard a lot of the time. So when I heard about TWCP, I was really excited about its vision to bring people together to be part of the change and shape a positive future for us all and not just wait for it to be ‘done to’ us. There are too many examples of where large-scale development has led to gentrification and segregation of communities. The diversity we have is one of the main things that attracted me to live here and raise my kids in a community full of different cultures and experiences. I want to celebrate that and not lose it, TWCP does too. 

Time has done some funny things the past 18 months, so when I was asked to write this post, including how I got involved in TWCP, I had to squint my eyes to look back and remember pre-covid times. I’d been living in Thames View just under a year before we entered the first lockdown and I’d got involved in TWCP almost immediately. With my family we had been trying to move here for most of a year before we finally arrived. We moved because my husband and I were appointed by the Church of England to form a new church community as the Riverside area expands.  

I was introduced to Matt and Jamie and enjoyed a coffee with them at Riverside Coffee Lounge in autumn 2018. Hearing about what they were hoping to achieve in the development of TWCP was really exciting. So much of what they were talking about, was exactly what I was passionate about and how I wanted to start our new church community. From that conversation, I knew that I would be getting more involved, though I didn’t know everything that was to come.  

Once living here, I got stuck in with the Steering Group, getting to know others on the board and loved hearing everyone’s stories and reasons for being a part of it. The thing I enjoyed most, was how the steering group was a real mix of people from right across the Ward and all walks of life, but with a shared passion for our community and being a part of positive change here.  

A few months ago I was asked if I would consider becoming Co-Chair alongside Josiah, as we’d be losing the wonderful Kelly when she moved out of the area. It has been humbling to take this on because we are at a really key moment in the development of TWCP, where the resident leadership is becoming more fully realised and our impact is growing rapidly. Acting as co-chair is a first for me and I’m grateful to be sharing this with Josiah because we complement each other well, and Matt, Jamie and the staff are a fabulous support to help us work towards a really exciting future.  

For many of us (myself included) the last few months have been trying to emerge from this strange and strained online life, often juggling kids at home a lot more (homeschooling = stressful!!). The TWCP team have done a phenomenal job and are emerging out of our lockdowns, with more funding to allow us to grow, an expanded staff team to explore and develop new directions and see resident led change become a reality.  

I’m excited to see how the future unfolds, because through the development of TWCP we have the possibility to be a strong and resilient community, that is able to harness and release the amazing talent we have in this ward for the good of those who are here now and the generations to come. With the centenary of the Becontree Estate, it’s got me thinking what will Thames be like in 100 years. My hope is that it is full of life, where people of all backgrounds share food and friendship, where housing is secure and safe, where employment is fulfilling and rewarding and our young people grow to be brave and kind leaders not only here but in communities far and wide.  

Anna Pollard

Co-chair and resident trustee of TWCP

Inside TWCP: Artist Through Community – Emmanuel

My name is Emmanuel Oreyeni AKA Oreyeni Arts, and I would like to tell you about my story of how I became the artist I am today, through the community.

At the end of year 11, I was introduced to Jamie through the drawings I gave to my teachers, before the last day of secondary school. We then met each other and he told me about TWCP, asking if I would be able to do something for the Growth Summit and we agreed on a small drawing series called the ‘Local Heroes’. This was inspired by how it reminded me of the Avengers; as individuals they have their flaws but in a group they are the earth’s mightiest heroes!

Since then, TWCP has given me the edge to do more with my art and turned it into a career! They have taught me not to wait for things to come to me but to make them happen by seeking out opportunities. So I did! From working with them I expanded my network by working with the Council on numerous projects; including the virtual Christmas festival, and ‘One Borough, One Love’ festival. I also became the youngest steering group member to receive funding at the age of 17, and designed a programme of drawing sessions in early lockdown. Now, I’m painting murals for large companies like Be First and the McLaren Construction Group and most recently for BRL – a mural for their Wilds Ecology Centre in Barking Riverside. I am so proud of what I have achieved from the very beginning of my career until now and I’m excited for university; to study art and see where art will take me next!

In the future, I hope to become well known not just because of my work but because of how young I started and what I was able to do. I now have confidence in my work through the Community Comics and numerous other art based projects and connecting with TWCP opened the door to these opportunities. Even with social media, I remember having only a few followers but now I see it growing. It’s not a rapid increase but one that progresses as my artwork progresses and that is what I love, the progression! After university I plan to do more work professionally and to gain experience in other related fields such as film, costume design, fashion, it could be anything!

Emmanuel Oreyeni

Local artist and TWCP steering group member

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