Published on October 5th, 2017 | by John OMeara



It’s hard to do anything in Lozells without bumping into someone – something to do with the layout of the houses and the streets. So when Mohammed Tanfeer Zarif       ( ‘Mr. T.’)  started picking up litter and planting flowers it got noticed. Now there is a movement, and a mood: not to tolerate living in a dump, to do things which make everyone’s life more pleasant.

On 28th September at the St. Francis Centre the Lozells Community Awards celebrated this, and celebrated more profound things which lie behind it: the commitment of teachers, who now teach the children of former pupils, and provide a sense of continuity which says to children ‘you matter’. An attitude to business which puts service and relationships with customers at the heart of it. A valuing by the community of those who put themselves into their work, whether it be a School Crossing Warden (Ali Xaaji) or a Volunteer Youth Worker (Sunu Miah). A determination not to let anyone fall through the increasingly large ‘welfare gaps’.

We would like to have mentioned all the award winners by name, but got too involved in things and missed key details – you can see several of them by clicking on this link Aspire&Succeed (keep scrolling down). Both Anglesey and St. Francis Schools featured (pupils and teachers), volunteers involved in planting and litter clearing, the Aston Cross Soup Kitchen (click VCSoupKitchen), Specs Direct on the corner of Lozells Road and Carpenters Road, Lodge Tyres who provided the planters, Frances Road and Burbury Street as  examples of transformation, and the Council’s Waste Management Team.

Recently, at an event in Handsworth, I heard someone say: ‘the sense of community in Handsworth has changed – now everyone is just looking out for themselves.’ If this is true to any degree it doesn’t seem to be true of Lozells. The large hall at St. Francis (yes – it can do high quality large events) was filled with a diversity of people who are all committed to doing things together and for each other. The organisers, and the MC’s on the night (congratulations to Aspire and Succeed, Richard Campbell and Anwar Karim), have injected the event with a real sense of occasion, and this in turn generates a feeling of collective expectation about what will be achieved locally, and how it will be achieved.

There’s a long way to go: the feedback on the event reflected how much it was enjoyed, but also that many dispiriting features persist in everyday life – not every street is uplifting to look at and live in. But events like this can plant seeds as well as celebrate achievements, and Lozells continues to be helped by a high concentration of religious, community and education institutions in the area who are all prepared to co-operate in its development. As Saidul Haque of Citizens UK commented: ‘5 Community Awards later and still building, with veteran and new leaders’.

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