North Kensington, where Migrants Organise has been based for the past 25 years, is a diverse area with a strong community spirit. It is rich with history of struggles and resistance – from the race riots of the late 1950s to the Justice for Grenfell movement today.
Despite its tradition of engagement on local issues, when it comes to elections, Kensington and Chelsea has a traditionally low voter turnout. Office for National Statistics data shows that in 2016, only 61 per cent of the borough’s estimated voting age population were registered to vote – one of the lowest levels in the entire country. Apathy, fuelled by the perceived predictability of the seat, which had a returned Tory MP from 1974 up until Labour was elected last year; a transient population; and significant deprivation in parts of the constituency, all impact upon the number of people who turn up to the polls. The high number of migrants and foreign-born residents within the borough also contributes to low turnout. Language barriers and a lack of familiarity with the democratic process mean that many people in the area need support in order to exercise their democratic rights.
To encourage participation in this year’s local elections, Migrants Organise has been implementing a campaign entitled ‘My Voice, My Vote’. The initiative has been working to mobilise the community, particularly migrants, to play a part in choosing councillors that will represent them, through making their voices heard, participating in discussions on local issues, and voting in local elections on May 3rd. Given the tragedy last summer at Grenfell Tower, ensuring that residents’ interests are properly represented in the local and national agenda is more important now than ever.
The ‘My Voice, My Vote’ campaign kick-started in April with a film screening of Golborne Stories: Struggles and Resistance. Held at Ladbroke Grove’s Westbank Gallery, the film was followed by a discussion organised in partnership with NOVA New Opportunities. Local residents, community leaders and councillor candidates networked and discussed issues from the film, such as community space, highlighting the parallels from 2014 (when the film was made) to today.
Migrants Organise community organisers have also provided tailored support to community groups in the form of workshops, resources and information-sharing sessions. This involved collaborating with community leaders and other residents to formulate questions on specific local issues, which were then presented to ten councillor candidates -including Emma Dent Coad MP – from a range of political parties, at North Kensington Chooses, a hustings event held at Al-Manaar Cultural Heritage Centre.
Over 100 attendees with affiliations to North Kensington came together at the event to discuss issues ranging from political representation and refugees and migrants, to housing and youth services. Migrants Organise will publish a paper summarising the discussion at North Kensington Chooses, so that candidates can be held accountable to any statements made on the evening.
If you would like our support, or are interested in learning more about civic participation in North Kensington, please contact our North Kensington Organisers, Maymuna Osman (firstname.lastname@example.org) or Didier Ibwilakwingi-Ekom (email@example.com).