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Archive for July, 2012

At the Opening Ceremony

On Friday night, I was honoured to attend the 2012 Opening Ceremony at the Olympic Stadium in Stratford. What an amazing show. I was glued to my seat from start to finish.

The representation of the Industrial Revolution was stunningly realistic – in a way that the TV broadcast couldn’t do justice. I thought it was great to showcase this part in history which changed Britain like no other period.

Other highlights included our very own Pearly Kings and Queens, the dance arrangement that formed the shape of the CND symbol (as a Mayor for Peace, this organisation is close to my heart), the brilliant dance section choreographed by British Bangladeshi Akram Khan and, for comic value, Her Majesty the Queen’s cameo appearance in a mini-Bond film, parachute-jumping into the ceremony with Daniel Craig.

I was also deeply moved by the section that highlighted the importance of our NHS. Those involved were not merely actors, but real-life nurses and patients from Great Ormond Street Hospital, renowned throughout the world as a centre for excellence in children’s medicine. I do believe that viewers throughout the world, particularly in those countries not lucky enough to have national healthcare provision free at the point of need, will have been able to see what high regard we Britons have for the NHS and the fabulous work they do. It’s particularly important at a time when the very foundations of the organisation are under threat from a Tory government intent on privatisation, run by politicians who clearly do not share the values upon which the NHS was built.

But now, over to you! Which bits of the ceremony were your favourities? Let me know on Twitter by tweeting @MayorLutfur.

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Olympic chimes

I was invited to ring the bells at Bow Church on the edge of the Olympic Park on Friday as part of the national carillon that rang out at 8:12am across the country to welcome the games. I would have been happy to – the seven centuries old Church has a serious history, and commemorates assorted martyrs from all eras.

Thirteen protestant martyrs were burned at the stake there in 1556 for fighting for freedom of conscience – and there is a plaque there to parishioner and Labour icon George Lansbury who helped pioneer our welfare state and who when he was a councillor in this borough went to gaol for his stand in support of suffragettes. He was also to become the leader of the Labour Party, and is still remembered here as ‘Good old George’.

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This weekend trade unionists from across the country will be gathering in Tower Hamlets to mark the 40th anniversary of the release of the ‘Pentonville 5’ – the five London dockers sent to jail for picketing in 1972.  Edward Heath’s Conservative Government had introduced a new Industrial Relations Act, designed to stop working people from expressing solidarity with one another. The Pentonville 5, along with trade unionists up and down the country helped defeat that legislation, and the role of the miners in helping to do that was never forgotten or forgiven by Margaret Thatcher when she came to power. The rest, as they say, is history.

The arrest and jailing of the five shop stewards lead to an unofficial wave of work stoppages which culminated in a one day national strike. The dockers were released within a week to great scenes of celebration. Many of you will remember the huge solidarity demonstration that also took place outside the Tower of London with the banner of the Royal Docks Shop Stewards Committee taking pride of place. It read simply; ‘Arise Ye Workers!’

The event was a seminal moment in the history of British trade unionism in demonstrating the power of the trade unions to overturn anti-union laws.

Tomorrow’s commemoration takes place at from 2pm at The Boat House, Ferry Street, Isle of Dogs, London, E14 3DT opposite Island Gardens DLR station and features a key note address from Len McCluskey, Unite General Secretary, workshops, and a social in the evening. It promises to be a very uplifting and memorable event, and is open for local residents.

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Only 48 hours to go!

In just over 48 hours time Tower Hamlets will welcome the world. After 7 years of planning the final touches are being put for the greatest show on earth – the 2012 Olympic Games.

On Friday I joined with Lord Coe, London Mayor Boris Johnson and thousands others to watch the Royal Marines abseil into the Tower of London with the Olympic flame securely attached! The excitement was palpable and residents came out in force to line the streets along the route and cheer on local torch bearers. 

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There are 126 languages officially spoken in our schools—but in reality the 127th, Cockney, is probably the biggest of all, even though it’s not on the census form.

Yesterday, I had the pleasure of joining the Pearly Kings and Queens at the Carpenter’s Arms in Stepney to celebrate East End cockney heritage, and listen to them talking about the history of cockney rhyming slang.

The Pearlies are London’s other Royal Family. Their long coats lavishly decorated with buttons symbolise a long and rich tradition of raising money for charity, and they’re an important part of East End history.

Whilst Cockneys are famous for not suffering fools gladly, they’re also known as incredibly welcoming and inclusive bunch. I was born in Bangladesh, but came to Britain at the age of four and certainly consider myself to be an East Ender, and proud to be so.

With the Olympics, we are welcoming the world to East London and it’s a great opportunity to showcase everything this thriving area has to offer. As well as our businesses, our parks, our landmarks and our found, culture is an integral part of this, and cockney heritage is an integral part of our culture.

Let’s give the Olympics a proper East End welcome!

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Ramadan Mubarak, London 2012

The holy month of Ramadan begins today, Friday, July 20.

Ramadan is a time for contemplation and generosity and it is also a time for us to be compassionate and thoughtful towards others.

In Tower Hamlets, where we pride ourselves on our inclusiveness and unity in diversity, I know that these are values which are important to us all.

This will be especially true as we welcome visitors from across the world for the Olympics and show our commitment to the Olympic values of respect, excellence and friendship.

The Olympics will also be a busy time for us in Tower Hamlets but I know that local people are looking forward to the greatest show on earth, which will be taking place on our doostep during this holy month.

To Muslims, people of other faiths, and of none, we wish you Ramadan Mubarak.

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Supporting our troops

I was sorry to find another inaccurate article about our borough in tonight’s Evening Standard.

Peter Dominiczak reported that soldiers stationed in the borough to provide support for the Olympics in light of the G4S catastrophe were being ‘charged £1 for a shower’.

I’m glad to say that this is not the case.

As soon as we were approached, this morning, by representatives of the army, requesting free use of our facilities at the newly-refurbished St George’s Leisure Centre, which is run by the contractor GLL, we were only to happy to oblige.

We are, of course, very grateful for the contribution that they are making to keeping our residents safe and our neighbourhoods free from potential disorder during the Games.

I want to extend a warm welcome to the troops on behalf of East End residents. I hope that they enjoy their stay here, and we will strive to do all we can to accommodate them.

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