I was born in Newham General and lived in Manor Park for my first 23 years of life – moving to South East London just before lockdown. Considering my mum (and her cooking) is still very much Newham based though; it will always be home.
I’m not sure how keen younger me would have been on the sentiment – my teenage years were mostly spent around Oxford Street & Hyde Park, the odd trip to Camden or in the infinitely cooler realms of Brick Lane, Vicky Park, Shoreditch and Dalston. It wasn’t until the Olympics put Stratford on the conscious map of the country that I came back around to considering the area as a destination at all.
And once I made peace with it, I started to appreciate the assets that had been on my doorstep all along. The material and haberdashery stalls in Queen’s Market are unrivalled; my mum’s love of markets and good food means that I’d still pick a £-a-bowl offering over the supermarket any time; and these days, if someone doesn’t know where Newham is, I’m pretty comfortable chalking it up to their ignorance as opposed to any self-conscious reflection of having originated from some neglected backwater.
Above all, it was as a result of joining a youth engagement scheme run as part of the redevelopment of Stratford that I discovered the value of all the understanding and knowledge I took for granted growing up locally. Regeneration is a balancing act – capable of harm, if done badly, but also incredible good, and I fell in love with the complexity of it all. I went on to study Architecture at University and have since come to this role as an Assistant Development Manager – far beyond my most optimistic aspirations – to bring forward a scheme with an incredible team that has all the elements to be something truly amazing.