East London bids sad farewell to teacher and Tower Hamlets gymnast coach Paul Janko

Paul Janko, 1952-2015

Paul Janko, 1952-2015 - Credit: Janko family

Schoolchildren, teachers and former pupils have been paying tribute to Paul Janko, who took kids from London’s East End onto the world stage representing Great Britain for gymnastics at international youth festivals. Paul, a teacher for 40 years at Cubitt Town School on the Isle of Dogs who founded the Tower Hamlets youth gymnastics team, has died at the age of 63.

He took youngsters to perform in the Macau International Youth Festival in the run-up to the 2008 Beijing Olympics, one of only 14 youth teams from around the world to be selected.

The Tower Hamlets team, representing the UK, started the festival off with contemporary jazz dance and took part in the big street parade through the city of Macau.

Paul also took his young gymnasts on tours of China, South Africa, Belgium and Poland.

“What a great man he was—our very own pied piper,” Cubitt Town Junior’s Headteacher Robyn Bruce told the East London Advertiser.

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“Nobody who met Paul would forget his commitment to educating and inspiring youth.”

“He was an inspiring and committed teacher who gave his time freely to offer opportunities to children beyond the classroom.”

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Paul, who would have turned 64 next month, the son of Josef and Anne Janko, went to Central Foundations Boys’ grammar school in Shoreditch, then on to study education at Avery Hill College in Mile End.

He started his teaching career at Cubitt Town in April, 1974, and remained for the next four decades.

The gymnastics club he started performed at the launch of London’s Olympic bid in 2004 at Covent Garden and Trafalgar Square. It also performed in the Lord Mayor’s Show and at the Millennium Dome on Remembrance Day and for the Queen’s Diamond Jubilee in 2012, the year Paul received the London Gymnastics Merit award.

Paul, who was secretary of the Tower Hamlets Primary Schools sports association, acted as correspondent for the East London Advertiser when he took his gymnasts to Macau for the 2008 International Youth Festival. He wrote:

Our performances on the international stage are being used to help tackle gambling problems among deprived children in one of China’s big cities in the run-up to the Beijing Olympics.

The Macau education authority asked for an interview with choreographers Tiffanie Sees and Rickey Blackett for a 45-minute TV documentary about the impact of dance with youngsters from East London “who might be socially or economically disadvantaged”.

It is being broadcast to encourage Macau’s youngsters to take up dance to avoid getting dragged into gambling which is a major problem in the former Portuguese colony.

The Tower Hamlets youth team was one of 14 from around the world selected for the festival, representing Great Britain, which started the festival off.

A parade along Macau’s main thoroughfare also had the group dancing without music to thousands of spectators lining the streets, which included a three-minute Hip Hop display on the stage in the main square.

The team selected from youngsters from Tower Hamlets schools practices each week at George Green’s Secondary on the Isle of Dogs.—Paul Janko.

A funeral service is being held on Saturday, April 16, at the City of London Crematorium at 10am. The procession leaves from outside Cubitt Town Junior School in Manchester Road at 9.25am. Memorial contributions can be made to Diabetes UK or Parkinsons UK.

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