On Thursday, 17th November, members of St John’s joined representatives of institutions across East London at the London Muslim Centre in Whitechapel for the TELCO delegates assembly. TELCO (newly renamed the The East London Citizens Organisation) is the chapter of Citizens UK to which we belong through our membership of Hackney Citizens. The purpose of the meeting was to celebrate previous victories, push the people in charge of the Olympic Legacy to build affordable housing on the Olympic site and support the Living Wage, and to plan for future campaigns.

The evening started by welcoming institutions who had recently joined TELCO. We were particularly excited to welcome our neighbouring parish church, St Anne’s Hoxton, as well as our connected church school, St John the Baptist Primary School, into Hackney Citizens. Our church’s role in founding the micro-organising coalition, Hoxton Citizens, was highlighted. Bosede shared about her campaign for a security gate for Aske House and encouraged the rest of TELCO to get involved in local organising. It was great to see a member of St John’s recognised. Do ask Bosede about the campaign, particularly if you live in Aske House and would like to see a gate put in!

In celebrating new Hoxton members and the energy of leaders like Bosede, the event reminded many of us how exciting the prospect of Hoxton Citizens is. Leaders from across Hoxton are already beginning to meet to discuss the Shoreditch Park developments and road safety issues. We will start conducting a full listening campaign in the coming months. This emerging alliance will develop leaders and local relationships through action.

Rev Graham was also seen up front, arguing for a name change (from The East London Communities Organisation to East London Citizens) but was outvoted in favour of the less radical change of exchanging Communities for Citizens in the acronym TELCO. In a year of establishment upsets, we couldn’t quite marshal the forces of populism to our cause and conservatism won out. However, perhaps we should be relieved that our vicar can’t be compared to Trump or Farage.

The meeting started the countdown to the 9th of March where TELCO will be ‘refounded’ after 20 years of organising in East London. Citizens UK is now a national movement but it all started here.  The 9th of March will mark the last twenty years and do business with representatives from local authorities. TELCO-wide events are always a great source of hope as we gather together to hear stories, build relationships and plot. We have committed to bringing 25 members of our congregation to that event so put it in your diary now! It will be the best- and perhaps only!- social justice birthday party you have ever been to!

While our focus will be on building Hoxton Citizens over the next year and listening to the issues that matter to people in Hoxton, it was good to hear about the campaigns that Citizens will be working on across East London. Familiar campaigns around housing, refugees and the London Living Wage were discussed, but so were new campaigns around prepayment meters and mental health. If any of this captures your imagination - or if there’s something you think we should be campaigning on - do get in contact with Josh (josh@stjohnshoxton.org.uk).