Michelle Lindson, Community Development Co-ordinator for the Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park, writes:
The ‘Nature and Us’ project has delivered community outreach work in the Shadwell, Aldgate East, Whitechapel and Wapping area since June 2018. The project was funded by Tower Hamlets Council when Section 106 contributions from development in Aldgate East were directed to community cohesion projects, such as ours.
We started by jumping straight in, delivering nature-based events in the park. Unfortunately, for a long time, very few people, or sometimes nobody, came to our events. We discovered that there were a lot of underlying issues in Swedenborg Gardens; reasons why people didn’t like using it.
For a long time there has been a lot of anti-social behaviour in Swedenborg Gardens, such as very open drug use/dealing, rough sleeping and littering. This has made residents fearful of using the park, especially those with children.
It took time for us to understand the situation, to gather local residents’ feelings and to develop partnerships with local organisations who also have a stake in Swedenborg Gardens. But, as of a few months ago, the hard work, patience and persistence has paid off. Our events are now regularly very well attended and we are recognised by local dog walkers, children, elderly residents and more! I love walking through the park and seeing the faces I have been saying hello to for over a year.
Also, over the last two months whenever I’ve been in the park, I’ve noticed less drug dealing and drug use, rough sleeping and litter. I’ve been hearing similar reports from local residents. It’s too early to know if this will continue, but we will keep working with the police, local homeless charity and other organisations to help reduce these behaviours. If you are a local resident or regular user of Swedenborg Gardens, please do email me if you have any comments on this.
Although I am sad to say that the funding for this project came to an end on 31st October 2019, I am excited to see where our community outreach takes us. We will not be able to run as many events in Swedenborg Gardens until we have more funding, but we will still be around! Keep an eye out for our posters, e-newsletters and social media posts. We keep applying for funding to continue our important work in Swedenborg Gardens!
Thank you everybody for your amazing support to date. I look forward to seeing you and working with you more in Tower Hamlets!
If you live or work near Swedenborg Gardens and would like to be involved in the use and promotion of the park, please do get in touch with me by email or phone 0208 983 1277.
All photos by Michelle Lindson/Friends of Tower Hamlets Cemetery Park – click to enlarge