Letter from the Publisher – Regenerating democracy and community in Lambeth this spring

Ibrahim Dogus

Spring has begun in Lambeth, bringing with it the promise both of fresh beginnings and of renewal. Following International Women’s Day on 8 March and the recent centenary of the Representation of the People Act, this issue of Lambeth Life is first of all a women’s issue, celebrating Lambeth’s historical and present-day pioneering female leaders.  Meanwhile, green shoots come courtesy of Garden Museum director Christopher Woodward, who suggests how to protect and make more of Lambeth’s open spaces. And we step inside the magnificently refurbished Edwardian Lambeth Town Hall, following the first major renovation in its history.

Another feature of the season is the approach of local elections. I reiterate the call I made in the last issue for all eligible residents to register to vote: there’s nothing more important than participating. (See our guide to the parties in the centre spread of the paper.) But there is more to democracy than the ballot box: there must be meaningful engagement year-round, as well.

With the new Town Hall comes a commitment from the council to move the community back into the building. In 2012, Lambeth became the UK’s first cooperative council, pledging to work collaboratively with local people and to ensure openness, transparency and accountability.

We know local authorities have had major difficulties due to austerity measures and huge budget cuts imposed by central government. Lambeth still tried very hard to keep public services going; but as it faces criticism by activists from all sections of the political spectrum, Lambeth council must do more to involve residents and listen to their concerns.

The past few weeks have seen upheaval on the High Street with the liquidation of Toys R Us and Maplin and the closure of casual dining venues. As I see it, these closures are part of technological and society-driven changes that can’t be stopped in their tracks. Where Lambeth should help is in ensuring all young residents have suitable training for the jobs of the future. That could be provided by, for example, working with local colleges to connect students with SME employers.

Lambeth was a runner-up in the Borough of Culture competition and won funding for its Next Generation project, which aims to provide work placements, new primary school curricula and a talent showcase for four hundred young Londoners. The borough should also seek to achieve the long-term objectives of the competition, increasing cultural collaboration and embedding pro-culture values in other policies.

In keeping with our remit to celebrate Lambeth’s diverse communities, this issue of Lambeth Life brings you perspectives from all corners of the borough: from an insider’s guide to LGBTQ+ Vauxhall, to the Oval Underground stationmaster bringing joy to the commute, to Brixton legend Blacker Dread giving a tour of his hangouts. Please get in touch to tell us your views or notify us about events, charity projects, sports matches and all the rest – this is your paper! Contact us at info@lambethlife.com

This time of year sees festivals for many cultures, from Chinese and Hindu New Year, to Passover and Easter. On 21 March, it was Newroz, New Year for my own Kurdish community. Lambeth being the place it is, each of these festivals is celebrated in style by many families up and down the borough. Whatever your background and creed, I wish you a happy, prosperous and peaceful spring.

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