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Deepa Srinath

Barking and Dagenham

I initiated a project called Community Concord. We’re a small group of local Indians who came together to celebrate Indian culture and traditions. To inspire community cohesion and well being, we started to do a lot of dance performances, as well as organising Indian festivals and different cultural workshops. We’re not professionals, but we just love dancing. There was a lot of local spirit to it, so Creative Barking and Dagenham approached us and wanted us to get involved. We did a flash mob at Barking Station and ASDA. It was raining, but still people got involved – anyone could join in. We danced like no one was watching!

Apart from performing and organising our own events, we also go and volunteer at events, like the GLOW festival, The Paper Costume project at the Royal Opera House, or the upcoming Thamesfest – I volunteered there with my husband & friends. At the GLOW festival last year, it was a winter night; we were handing out glow sticks for people in the queue. My hands were so stiff in the cold, but it was so much fun to volunteer for Creative Barking and Dagenham, because they make us feel a part of it. And I love creativity, so it all binds together. Art has no language. It brings smiles to everyone and we all must have art and culture as our creative outlet to realise the full potential of life. 

In April this year, we started a Skills Exchange program project called Ryze. I started Community Concord because I love creativity, but in the process we saw many local talents getting involved. A local friend who loves photography started taking good pictures of our events. We also found technology-orientated people who love to share animations; travel aficionados creating personal travel plans for others; cooking people sharing their skills. Together we had an abundance of skills. So we set up ticket-based system where locals can offer their skills, and our team will connect them to the community. A lot of talents are getting exchanged, and we’re trying to expand it even more. Giving that openness to people is making it more exciting for them to get involved.

There was a lot of isolation earlier – now it’s becoming more of a neighbourhood, and community spirit is increasing. Being partnered with Creative Barking and Dagenham and the library and the council is helping us have a much more professional and holistic approach. It’s good to work with the other organisations, rather than just being for the Indian community.

Photo: Stephen King