We all feel uncertain about the future and the impact that the result of the EU referendum will have. The one thing that we can feel sure about is that the success of the East End is in large part due to the extraordinary diversity of its people, and the undeniably positive contributions of centuries of immigrants from Europe and from all over the world who’ve set up small businesses here.
We can also be proud that there is a fine tradition of sanctuary in our part of London, refugees have fled from persecution through the Docks in search of a better life and their achievements have been absorbed through time into the culture of this vibrant neighbourhood, cultivating our traditions and helping to make the East End the distinctive place that we all know and love.
In the final week of our campaign, and in the current climate, I have been reflecting on the positive stories of immigration and of the solidarity between small business owners and the wider community, and how people from all backgrounds have supported one another in difficult times. Trades people of the East End have always come together during moments of crisis for the benefit of all. The Chartist movement was catalysed in the East End by weavers, bakers, shoe makers, carpenters and tailors who were both indigenous East Enders and migrant people, working together in common cause.
Examples such as The Bow Mach Girls strike, and the Docker strike also show how collective action strengthened and formalised civic alliances of the industrial East End and made a concrete difference to the quality of life for many. The friendly societies of old were formed out of a need for people to associate in order to resist the ravages of the the industrial revolution. It was ordinary men and women working together which gave birth to Chartism, unionism, the Labour Party and to the Welfare State. And before the industrial revolution some of the earliest forms of civic groups were the trade associations, known as guilds.
During a visit to C. E Waste Paper Merchants who have been recycling in the East End before anyone else realised it was a good idea. I was reminded of this tradition of solidarity when recording Carol Burns for our new short film. Carol told me about her Dad, Charlie Burns and how working class and migrant communities support each other in the East End.
“My Dad Charlie Burns, he was born on this street in 1915. When he left the army he set up a recycling business. When he eventually got his property here, and the Bangladeshi people first came over, my Dad used to help them out with their furniture and they would pay him a shilling a week. And those people, as they grew up and got on, they never ever forgot my Father. They still come down now telling me what a good man my Dad was because of the way he helped them in the early 50’s and the 60’s.”
Our new film features three of our beloved founders Carol Burns, Paul Gardner and Philip Pittack.
Paul Gardner has kept the family tradition going since the 1960’s when his Father passed away, and his business supplies the myriad of culturally diverse markets all across London. Philip Pittack’s Grandfather Mendell, came from Poland more than a hundred years ago and his Father David was at the front of the opposition to Mosley and his cronies.
Now more than ever is the time for solidarity. Together in support of one another we can get through the uncertain times ahead. As Carol says “I think it would be a good idea to get all the small businesses together, so they can relate to what is going on. We all help each other, and to get together will be a very, very good thing”.
If we reach £20,000 on the 8th July we can keep the East End’s excellent tradition of solidarity going strong, and celebrate the small businesses that make our area uniquely inclusive and diverse on East End Independents’ Day. It is essential that we shout about these inclusive values now, when the dangerous political rhetoric seeks to divide us and drown out the positive stories of successfully diverse neighbourhoods like ours. If you can help us, we will work with small businesses to amplify the incredible stories that our members have to tell about their economic, social and cultural contributions to our part of London.
In the first eight days of our campaign, we were able to get over half way to our target. With your help we can achieve the same in our final seven. Head to our IndieGoGo page now to support our Guild.
The potential for extraordinary things from the list of astounding businesses who’ve supported the Guild thus far is enormous. Head over to our IndieGoGo page to join or support us today!
Angela Flanders Perfumer
Bob & Blossom
Buhler & Co
C E Waste paper Merchants
Caroline Bousfield, Master Potter
Chatsworth Road Market Association
Dowse & Co
Duke of Uke
East End Prints
Five Points Brewing Company
Johnston Architecture & Design
Labour and Wait
Luna & Curious
One Four Six
Roman Road Market
SAS HR Ltd
Spitalfields City Farm
Splice TV & Film
The De Beauvoir Deli
Whitechapel Coffee Company
By Founding Organiser Krissie Nicolson.