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Reviving Redbridge: The Remix by Jai Aswani

picture of jai speaking to another member from Redbridge Community Links in an art gallery

I have lived in Redbridge for over 25 years and from the perspective of my involvement in the well-being charity Richmond Fellowship, who values community links, I have felt this is such a multi-cultural borough and it’s diversity is prominent.

For many of us that have grown up in Redbridge we have seen changes in individuals’ tastes. For one we used to go and enjoy a night out, rather than stay at home on social media platforms. It almost seems like we had more fun mixing, socialising with people, making friends at places like Penthouse in Ilford Magnums, Room at the top, The Ilford Palais, Jumping Jacks, Shannon’s, Kings’ Seven Kings, Hollywood’s’ of Romford, 5th Avenue- I could go on. Dancing to Whitney Houston ‘I wanna dance with somebody’, Rick Astley ‘Never going to give you up’, Alexandra O’ Neil ‘Saturday love’. I feel there is a lack of live events and activities to cater for this change.

What do you believe needs to change in Redbridge?

I believe the borough has been deprived of live activities, especially in certain areas, due to circumstances beyond our control. Some cinemas have closed like the Gants Hill Odeon and some pubs too like The Avenue, The Green Gate, and the Cranbrook. Social platforms, smart phones and televisions have taken over. Apartments have consumed lots of spaces for high rise buildings given the housing demands. Redbridge has lost some of its vibe and ambiance in the process.

It’s time to increase socialisation beyond just coffee shops and eateries. We feel the arts and culture in Redbridge has changed drastically over the years. The borough needs to move with the changes in diversity. It’s very nice seeing opportunities for creativity and welcoming new arts and culture projects like ‘Colours of Redbridge’ who are founded in arts and culture so that the Redbridge community does not lose sight of this amongst other surroundings.

The Colours of Redbridge project was introduced by an engagement officer who interacted with people from various organisations such as One place East, Friends of Loxford, Uniting Friends and Redbridge Central Library – to name a few.

How was your experience at our Here We Share session?

In the Colours of Redbridge ‘Here We Share’ project our community links members interacted and showed particular interest on the side of art and culture. As members we are encouraged to participate in activities and creativity such as creative writing, art and dance classes to empower ourselves, build confidence and self-esteem, which proved itself in the focus group. Following on with a music workshop which prompted further interest as members enjoyed the interaction and using their culture, in some way, to introduce themselves through musical lyrics.

I now feel the Colours of Redbridge project has come alive, bringing bright, unique events, testing them and learning about the demand for them. This will be fun, loved, joyful and not too costly for families and friends to come along, feel included and part of the community. From sharing thoughts to talking with shared common ground in cultural beliefs. Ideas may include a fusion of music and dance i.e. Bollywood so that we can educate each other about our cultures, values and encourage inclusivity. Creativity and arts inspired live events are so important for the community.

What did you enjoy most about the project so far?

I quite liked what I heard in the ‘Here We Share’ session in the initial focus talk on the project, though I was a little dubious, I liked what was shared. Specifically, that the project is being directed at and being led by involving the community, so they can show their creativity and have an opportunity to shine.
Not everyone has the opportunity to be articulate enough to express themselves early on in life. However, with growing options to develop skills such as drama, singing, art (like kite designing) and sign language, it allows the community to express themselves and communicate in alternative ways.

How have you been involved in Colours of Redbridge?

The opportunity to give my input on the activities during the ‘Here we share’ session was exciting and allowed me to express myself. Living in Redbridge for over 25 years I couldn’t say no, I felt quite privileged to be asked and also have a say at the launch event just over two weeks ago. Nervous? Yes, but with the support offered, I felt comfortable and began feeling more positive, confident and believed in my own say about this project, to the audience, hoping they may be able to relate as well.

Well!!! After the presentation and talk, I was surprised by the positive feedback from staff and audience. This gave me the inspiration to have another go, feeling it was okay to challenge and believe in myself my confidence and self-esteem was boosted on the day.
The Colours of Redbridge is a unique project, well-designed and planned over the three years. The project aims to bring inclusivity to Redbridge, a multi-cultural and diverse borough, so to have the interest of the community at heart and to incorporate these within the project plan seems too good to be missed.

Why should people get involved in Colours of Redbridge?

There are a number of suggested activities and due to the increased popularity of some, we hope to test these and receive feedback. In a few months the producers, co producers and professional support will steer suggestions in meetings. To get the best outcome for these exciting activities and enhance it for a large event, for the community and yourselves to be part of, we will listen. We hope you can be part of this Redbridge-based project and join in on the activities bringing a change, positive vibe and enthusiasm to the borough where some revitalising is needed. It will be your involvement and say that matters. Also, to help us is to help yourselves, as you are part of this community.

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