London Borough of Culture team defends celebrations in week of local boy’s murder
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The creators of a celebratory video installation, projected this weekend on the walls of Waltham Forest town hall to mark its status as the first London Borough of Culture, have laid flowers to commemorate the life of murdered local teenager Jaden Moodie and vowed to boost the area’s sense of community.
“A lot of the young people we have spoken to while making this film said they had nothing to look forward to,” said Jessica Hudsley, the project manager working the audio visual artists Greenaway & Greenaway, who grew up in Walthamstow, at the heart of the east London borough.
“It is the same story in many urban areas. Knife crime does not happen in isolation, it links to what is going on in the wider community. Our film reflects these issues, from house prices and gentrification to food banks. It is very important to talk about these things together.”
The creative team faced a call to postpone the opening celebration after the murder last week of 14-year-old Jaden, who was knocked from a moped and stabbed to death last Tuesday in Leyton, in the south of the borough.
The opening 12-minute film, Into the Forest, is part documentary, part art installation, and was made in collaboration with the award-winning musician Talvin Singh. It features 1,000 video portraits of residents across the wider borough, highlighting life in Chingford, Walthamstow markets, Leyton Orient Football Club and in the borough’s Baptist churches, mosques and Hindu temples. A winter carnival has been taking over one of the borough’s main roads over the weekend, while a light and sound show has been installed in nearby Lloyd Park.
The Borough of Culture title is an initiative launched by London’s mayor, Sadiq Khan. Waltham Forest’s successful bid, which won the borough an initial £1m from City Hall, aims to involve 85% of households in cultural activities and to attract more than half a million new visitors to the area.
But on Friday the former Metropolitan Police superintendent Leroy Logan questioned the timing and the the amount spent on the event.
“It is such a contrast compared with what some families are going through,” said Logan. “I don’t have an issue with holding events like this to try to improve the quality of life for people in these communities, but it is a matter of priorities and timing and what signal it sends out to Jaden’s family.”
A spokesman for the mayor has defended the investment in the Borough of Culture event and added that the capital’s violence reduction unit had recently received an extra £6.8m.
Clare Coghill, leader of Waltham Forest council, also defended the opening event, which she believes will bring communities together.
“Culture is not an optional add-on, an afterthought, or something that is just nice to have. On the contrary, investment in culture is essential to ensure that everyone enjoys a great quality of life and gives our young people something to inspire them,” she said.
“Sadly, Waltham Forest is no different from other London boroughs and metropolitan areas of the UK in having an issue with youth violence. This is a societal problem that isn’t confined to one area.”
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