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Last Updated: Monday, 4 August, 2003, 05:39 GMT 06:39 UK
My London: 'We live on an island'
Crissy Townsend
Crissy Townsend directs TAG from a small office on the estate
Crissy Townsend, 54, was fed up living on a run-down estate in Poplar, east London, which was cut off by a busy A-road. So six years ago she took matters into her own hands to bring the community together and set up the Teviot Action Group (TAG).

It is like we live on an island. Although Canary Wharf is five minutes away we feel we are in a different zone, in a different age as well.

On one side I can look and there's a wealth of riches, banks and Canary Wharf.

But five minutes away there's this little estate, the Teviot Estate, that is still suffering from isolation, poverty and it needs regeneration badly, although it is taking place.

It used to be appalling, it was the kind of estate which had a big reputation. The minute you mentioned it people would say: 'Oh, you don't live on the Teviot do you?'

I had three young children and they didn't have anywhere to play. I just thought to myself: 'Something needs to be done here.'

I found that the community had a wealth of skills, they only needed a chance and to trust in someone who would help them
Crissy Townsend
So I went to a 'Planning For Real' exercise where residents went along to say what they thought was a priority in the area.

I rushed out and got a ball of wool and placed it on the plan to mark a bus route. People said: 'In your dreams will you get a bus.'

I campaigned and got over 7,000 signatures and continued going to meetings. I finally got that bus.

But I wanted to go forward because the campaign was a success - and we gained access to this small shop where everything started.

When we got this little shop [headquarters of TAG] the residents brought paint from their homes to decorate it.

The shop was all different colours but it was owned by the residents so it was wonderful to see.

I found that the community had a wealth of skills, they only needed a chance and to trust in someone who would help them.

The East End people have got a lot of go, providing you give them time and trust.

Tower Block on estate

We have got two people on the management committee who only ever went out to the shops and back and stayed in the house for 20 years, when you hear stories like that it is unbelievable.

There was lots of racial tension, I set up the sewing class and we sent leaflets to all the homes asking people to bring their clothes that needed turning up or altering in some way. Some of the Asian ladies eventually joined and became very good friends.

We have seen some of the old [tower block] buildings demolished and new buildings put up.

It is making a lot of difference to the area and people feel good about moving into the new properties.

I like seeing changes going forward - that is my main aim to take this estate forward by 2010, when I will probably be too old to do anything more.

My children live here and I could never see myself leaving, although I have always wanted a nice house with a garden.

I would like to think I will stay to see it all regenerated and there are now lots of activities here for when I get older.

Mrs Townsend's efforts have won her a Millennium Award from the School of Social Entrepreneurs and recognition from the Mayor of London Ken Livingstone as part of July's London Day celebrations.

My London is a series of features about life in the city which will be on News Online every Monday. If you have a story suggestion please send an e-mail to: londonnews@bbc.co.uk.

The Teviot estate: in pictures
04 Aug 03  |  Photo Gallery

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