An Edmonton resident on how her neighbourhood has maintained a healthy community spirit, writes Amari Blaize
Every summer the Hydeside neighbourhood, comprised of three roads in Edmonton, holds its annual street party in celebration of the local community.
This tradition began five years ago when a charity, Street Play, put up the funds for the first event to focus on encouraging children to play safely outside. Since then it has become an annual event and this summer, for the second successive year, Edmonton MP Kate Osamor joined in the fun.
Whether residents are young or old, nearly everyone participates in the preparations. Iliana makes her ‘marshmallow rice krispy’ snacks, while Michael and Geoffrey take care of the barbecue sausages, burgers and chicken. Then there’s the indefatigable Geraldine, who makes the whole event possible.
With only one way in and out of this particular neighbourhood, it is the epitome of a close-knit community. Sure, we have had crimes, but we look out for one another. People tend to live here for decades. Helen has lived here for over 50 years and refuses to move despite entreaties from her adult children. She says she feels safe and everyone is friendly.
“It’s a wonderful thing when the immediate community can come together and share their cultural traditions” said one resident at our summer street party, speaking as the Turkish girls demonstrated how to do the traditional Halay dance.
When I moved here nearly five years ago I was made to feel immediately welcomed. Michael left home-grown ripe figs outside my door, while Dorothy planted pumpkins in my garden. I also eat my fill from Albert’s grapevine that cascades into my garden (shush don’t tell him!).
You could call Hydeside a ‘mini United Nations’ – a beautiful representation of the vibrant multicultural heart of London. There are people living here with ancestral links to Turkey, Ireland, Africa, the Caribbean, Greece, Cyprus and Malaysia, to name a few.
There is always a pleasant greeting, smile or a wave. We gossip over the fence or pause at the front gate for a prolonged “how are you?” – as one person peels off, another passer-by will join in.
A long time ago, people often lived like this. It’s different today. Technological advance, and especially the rise of social media, has curtailed much basic human interaction. At a time when polarisation, divisiveness and loneliness in society contributes to poor mental health, there is something very special and precious about our Hydeside community that everyone who lives here has a vested interest in preserving.