Last night, I had the pleasure of being part of TELCO’s 15 th Anniversary Assembly, held at the Troxy: a 2000-seater 1930s cinema just round the corner from the Contextual Theology Centre’s Limehouse home. Delegations from many of TELCO’s member institutions (including our wide range of partner churches) proved enthusiastic participants in a celebration of 15 years of working together for social justice in East London.
Showcasing singers, poetry readers, and even a 30-piece orchestra from Trinity Catholic High School, the assembly was an all-singing, all-dancing extravaganza. Over the course of the evening, scores of people – young and old, of faith and of no faith – had the chance to tell the story of TELCO as well as of their own institutions. Framing both what the organisation has achieved, and what it is yet to achieve, the assembly presented a clear message – that by acting together, we are more powerful.
One of the central stories told in the assembly was of TELCO’s recent Olympic Jobs Fayres – in which I and my placement church have played an active role. These were run by local people, for local people, and were intended to take the pain out of applying for a job on the Olympic Park. Importantly, the jobs on offer are Living Wage jobs, and it is a triumph that London CITIZENS, working with LOCOG, has managed to secure the first ever Living Wage Olympics – covering all 130,000 jobs building the site and running the games! This story of success became real when we heard powerful testimonies from two people – Jan Harris, who invested so much energy as a TELCO leader into the interview process, and Maria Cheeseman, who has been offered a job through TELCO after years of unemployment. There wasn’t a dry eye in the room.
The celebration continued when Lord (Sebastian) Coe, Chairman of the London 2012 committee, was welcomed to the stage to present certificates to successful candidates (including Maria) who came through our Jobs Fayres. After this act of recognition, the assembly turned its mind to the future, and Paul Deighton, CEO of LOCOG, was invited into a discussion with Fr Sean Connolly (Parish Priest in Manor Park and Assistant Director of the Contextual Theology Centre). On behalf of TELCO, Fr Sean managed to negotiate the possibility of 2000 Olympic-funded internship opportunities for talented young people in East London with leading UK businesses. There was a great buzz about the room.
Hearing also about TELCO’s Community Land Trust bid, CitySafe campaign, as well as more local actions, the room returned home at the end of the evening with a renewed appetite for action. We’re all looking forward to the 30th anniversary!