The chief executive, Angela McConville, set the scene perfectly by showcasing her idea of contributing to the community. First up was a (I think Sudanese) girl singing. Had she written her song? Was it culturally relevant to her? It was a cover of New Yorker Alysia Keys!
What a contrast with the account by long-standing resident Wilf Walker of how he'd built the Acklam Hall up into a venue for live Afro-Caribbean music when it was snatched from him by the Trust. He was followed by his son Huey explaining with calm dignity how the Trust had just done the same thing to him with the Flyover. It came across clearly that she had not cared about its significance as the last live music venue available to the local Afro-Caribbean community when she'd been able to get more money from a minor art gallery. I hope that Alan understands the desire and potential for a major Afro-Caribbean cultural centre here and that the reason the Westway Trust was given the 23 acres was to provide space for things like that not commercial art gallery's with no local significance.
Another similar story told was about Sarah Tuvey's stables. Sarah also clearly enjoys huge community support. The difference is that, despite their best efforts, the Trust's senior management has not yet achieved their goal of forcing her and her ponies to leave, so Alan could easily turn the situation round.
Sarah grew up locally and took over the stables from the rag and bone man in a terrible state. Stable Way was a no go area too. The Westway Trust used her to transform them into a community asset which Sarah has used to help very many people that other local organisations (like the Westway Trust) aren't able to cope with or help. And it is a real community resource - she welcomes everyone whether they can afford her (modest) rates or not.
18 months ago the Westway Trust took advantage of a technical legal point to avoid renewing Sarah's lease in the way they'd previously agreed to. Since then, they've made her life hell.
It began with Angela saying that she was only interested in "gold standard" stables producing national champions. She didn't get that Sarah's stables were gold standard community stables achieving something unique in London. She said that Sarah could stay if she made the business sufficiently profitable etc - but promptly turn down the offer of a year's rent upfront. Then she said she needed a real financier but turned down the very major one Sarah introduced to her. Next Angela brought in her lawyers who complained that she hadn't kept sufficient records of her community work, even though the Trust had never been interested in it before. Sarah was given the choice of being evicted last July or next January. At their last meeting, Sarah told them that she had no where to go - but they have told everyone that she had agreed to leave. (This is just one small example of the lies and misinformation they've been disseminating about her which has turned many people against her.)
Sarah wants to continue working in her own community where she can contribute so much. She deserves to be allowed to do so and the community want it; this is something Alan could sort out easily. He just needs to listen to the community instead of the vindictive and highly personalised attacks that Angela has made on Sarah.
The Trust was given the land for things like community stables. What Sarah needs is either a proper long lease of the existing stables and arena so she can relaunch them with improved facilities (the current ones are worn out and need refurbishment) or to be part of the new equestrian centre that the Trust is talking about (the one thing Sarah has achieved is making them understand that ponies and riding can make a valuable contribution to the inner city).
Giving Sarah's stables a real future would be a great first step to showing that the Westway Trustees are now listening to and working with the community that they are meant to represent, and providing space to replace the Flyover would be a good second one too