A few people recently have remarked that the members of Westway23 have been hard at work for the last couple of years, holding the Trust to account and doing our bit to bring about change.
It is good and spiritually and mentally vital to have work and effort acknowledged. But, we have had to correct people on the timeframe.
Two members of Westway23 attended the Westway Trust AGM at the end of 2014. Nearly five years ago.
At that AGM they witnessed the Trust undergo an essentially clandestine change in its constitution and board. According to the RBKC Cabinet decision report of October 2014, the change would make it "as well-equipped as possible to deliver “Destination Westway”.
We know now what Destination Westway was - it was a blatant attempt to develop/regenerate/gentrify/cleanse (delete as appropriate) the 23 acres in whatever way the board and its council connections wanted.
We didn't even need whitewashed drawings to know the kind of cultural armageddon by way of bland architectural onslaught that would be.
RBKC stated in that same report that "The Trustees consider it inappropriate to undertake wide consultation until the Royal Borough Council confirms its support for the changes.". We know that what that effectively meant was that members of the local community would have no say whatsoever in how the change or the strategy would be played out. The resulting board had barely any local community representation, dominated as it was by financial and property interests. And geared up as it was to marginalise and exclude genuine community voices.
We know the regeneration drill. We've seen it play out with the library, with Wornington, with Canalside, with Silchester and with too many spaces we haven't been able to protect.
But, nearly five years down the line we may finally have reached something different with the Trust.
Three Westway23 members now stand as shortlisted candidates for the position of Chair of the Westway Trust.
Our aims for the Trust are public and have been for some time. We have stopped the development of the Acklam Road and Portobello site. We have supported the occupation of Bay56. We have fought for and won a Review into Institutional Racism that is due to release its findings in September. We have refocused the Trust on the environmental issues that affect us all. We have kept the Stables on the table. We have exposed and buried Destination Westway and in doing so removed multiple Trustees and a Chief Executive. We have helped to bring about a Trust that is undoubtedly different to the one in 2014/15, although still not where we believe it ought to be.
Most recently we have had a set of demands that we have been circulating. The first three are complete or underway.
- The resignation of the now ex-Chair
- The recruitment of a new community focused Chair
- Proper local community representation on the board
- An end to the corporate Executive structure
- A new organisation purpose of grant giving and community investment
- A new membership model
Regardless of whether we have a successful candidate, we continue to press ahead with bringing about the changes as set out in our demands.
We all want to get to the end of this fight. We all want to get to the beginning of a new Trust.
Interviews for the five shortlisted candidates take place in September.