Community names five heroes for Freedom of Tower Hamlets 2021
- Credit: Neil Turner
Three community heroes have joined Canary Wharf’s Sir George Iacobescu and former MP Jim Fitzpatrick to receive the Freedom of Tower Hamlets at a ceremony taking place at the Tower of London.
The five nominations — the first such ceremony since the Covid emergency — include Neighbours in Poplar’s Sister Christine Frost, East London Mosque’s Sufia Alam and former mayor Abdul Sardar.
The Freedom was last given to Commander John Ludgate in 2018 as former Deputy Lieutenant who escorted the Royal family on visits to the East End for 20 years.
He was selected by the council — but this time the town hall put nominations to the public, which came up with five names.
Sister Christine started Neighbours in Poplar in 1968 to meet the needs of the isolated and families in poverty.
She persuaded big Canary Wharf corporations to pick up the tabs for food and presents, which her army of volunteers distributed at Christmas and was awarded the MBE in the Queen’s Honours List in 2008.
She rose again during the pandemic with her volunteers to cook and distribute 16,000 hot meals, run a food bank and arrange vaccination trips.
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Sufia Alam began her community work with the Wapping Women’s centre and then went on to run an organic community garden on Whitechapel’s Berner Estate to encourage women stuck at home to join programmes for further education and into employment.
She now manages the East London Mosque’s Maryam Centre and campaigns on the Tower Hamlets Interfaith and Domestic Violence forums.
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Human rights campaigner Abdul Sardar, who was mayor in 2003, has earned praise for working with organisations diverting young people from street gangs and founding the Tower Hamlets Council of Mosques.
The five “people’s choices” also named Canary Wharf chairman Sir George Iacobescu and former Poplar and Limehouse MP Jim Fitzpatrick.
Sir George was the man behind rejuvenating the disused Millwall and West India Docks using the massive Canary Wharf project, which has transformed industrial wasteland into one of the world’s top business districts.
Jim Fitzpatrick, the authority felt, earned his Freedom of Tower Hamlets as MP from 1997 to 2019. The former London firefighter campaigned on leaseholder rights and on justice for victims and survivors of the 1996 IRA Canary Wharf bombing.