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’.
Sadly I couldn’t make it, but that had a bright side. As the clouds parted over Bow Church my colleague Councillor Rania Khan joined the Reverend Debby Frazer, one of the first Anglican women ministers ordained, and Victoria Groves, newly enthroned Pearly Queen of Bow (pictured left to right) in ringing the bells. It was even more appropriate since the Church was so closely associated with the suffragettes.
Unfortunately there are a number of problems afflicting the church, included the area surrounding the historic bell tower. The cast iron railings of the historic landmark church have been hit and demolished by buses and cars and so far efforts to restore them have been mired in bureaucracy. I will be going to Bow Church with with Rania to see what we can do to speed up their restoration.
The Reverend Frazer and Councillor Khan, who is our lead member for culture, have agreed to meet to discuss the possibilities for a monument to the suffragettes in the churchyard. We will keep you posted.
And finally, Pearly Queen Victoria Groves, as well as wanting to cultivate closer relations between the Pearlies and her local Church for their charitable work, also discussed our proposal from last week to boost respect for East End Culture and Cockney language in the council’s Idea Stores.
It was a great morning – and the role of the borough can only be enhanced when fifty Pearlies representing the East End in general but Tower Hamlets in particular, strut the stage of the Olympic opening ceremony tonight, which will be seen across the world. It is great to be ahead of the curve: our call for more respect for Cockney traditions had gone global two weeks ago, before we knew about their part in the opening, appearing in hundreds of papers from the Washington Post to China Daily!