African Drummers on the Brandon

Please see the comments from Nat Stevens, our Resident Services manager below:

The African Drummers rocked the Brandon estate this evening as the community rose to their feet to dance to the thundering sound of the African drummers and Afro beat in the Jack Hobbs Club. The atmosphere was electric and the Jack Hobbs has not seen anything like this in my 12 years of  my service on the Brandon Estate.

Residents who have lived on the Brandon since 1969 were quick to tell me that the Jack Hobbs use to be a place for social gatherings, parties, wedding celebrations as well as birthday parties and they are very pleased that the Brandon 1 TRA has started to organise community social evenings and this is very much needed as neighbours get to know each other, chat over food and drinks and the kids also get to play with other kids, dance and eat together. Two families asked if they can hire the hall for a family wedding.

There were about 105 children and 66 adults in the Jack Hobbs by my count. It could be more as the TRA has an accurate record of attendees. Some of the adults were beautifully clothed in very colourful traditional African clothes despite the freezing temperature. The kids and their families enjoyed freshly cooked ‘jollof’ rice and chicken wings as well as other very delicious dishes.

This was the community truly at its best celebrating the true beauty in diversity. All the kids participated in learning new African songs and as well as the traditional African dance moves that so beautifully accompanied the music. There are huge benefits for working collaboratively with residents. The partnership work with residents and other voluntary agencies like fight for change and the role of the Southwark young advisors played all helped to make the event a remarkable success.  I have been to a number of TRA meetings and never in my experience have a witnessed a TRA event in the evening where I have seen 105 young people aged between 6 to 17 eating, drinking, dancing and learning together about another culture. This could be another model for youth engagement. Just a thought!!!

It was nearly 10:30pm and the Chair informed all the residents that we were about the bring the event to a close and Jessica, a very lovely girl aged probably 9 years of age ran towards me and asked if she would be allowed to dance and play a little bit longer with her new friends. Jessica also asked if the African Drummers can come again next weekend.

We allowed Jessica and her friends to dance and play for another twenty minutes or so but on the question of whether  I will bring the African drummers again next week, I told her if she continues to be a good girl may be, just may be. I managed to dodge the question and not sure if I successfully did it but such is the enthusiasm and interest sparked by the event that if we are thinking of how to engage our young people, then perhaps putting up an Africana or a Latino evening could just be a new way of getting 105 young people in a room.  

The remarkable success recorded this evening also highlights the virtues of community power. At the heart of this model is that the community has the skills, knowledge and experience to deliver services and part of our role is to tap into this expertise and facilitate a mechanism for devising, designing and delivering a service that meets the needs and aspirations of the service users. It is clear to me that the remarkable success of this event is down to the residents who consulted with service users, planned the event, used the local community networks on the estate to publicise the event and to ask all residents to bring their children along. Well done to the Brandon TRAs as well as Conant and Rutley and Pelier TRA for making the event the success that it turned out to be.