Real heart, strong governance
Stuart Cox on why he joined our committee -
One of our newest members, Stu Cox joined Globe Community Project’s committee at the start of 2019. Despite working full time, when I asked to interview him, he responded straight away. He gave a time he’d be available, answered my call immediately, and was warm, clear and full of enthusiasm – typical of all our interactions so far!
I started off by asking Stuart to tell us a bit about himself. Stuart?
I’m originally from Essex but my family have roots in the east end, particularly around Bethnal Green and Brick Lane, so I’m connected. I’ve always had a real interest in the arts, although it took me a long time to get to art school. I worked in musical theatre, and I was an actor for ten years. I was also teaching all through that time, and very passionate about it. I’d always loved interacting with the arts, but hadn’t had much opportunity to come together and be in groups, which is what I find inspiring. Eventually, that became more of a focus for me, particularly looking at communities, engaging them in the arts. That led me to managing the Education Department at the Blue Elephant Theatre, which is actually on a housing estate in Camberwell. Then onto Jackson’s Lane, where I got to create a department from scratch. It was outreach work, in areas like Tottenham and Barnet, with people who wouldn’t normally get the chance, wouldn’t think the arts was for them. That then led me to St Margaret’s House. I’ve always been fascinated and inspired by community action, wherever it is. It’s so important now with all the cuts and our rocky political landscape. I think people coming together from whatever background is always a good thing.
What is it you love about your work?
Seeing positive change. I love seeing individuals who, at the start of something, say “I can’t do that, that’s not for me,” then have a complete turnaround, with life-changing results. One example is a gentleman I worked with who took part in a community play. It was quite a short project, but six and a half years later, he had stayed on as a participant, become part of the steering group, made a film, helped in some of the youth projects. He’d become integral to the building. One of my proudest moments was hearing that the initial project changed his life, because none of the rest would have happened without it. He had a history of mental health issues and isolation, so the change was just so joyous! Particularly for older communities, isolation can be a massive issue. So to see someone go on to make a pop video, then do stand-up comedy… he really threw himself into all these projects!
What’s your connection to the local area?
My granddad was a particularly proud cockney. When I was a child, he’d always be full of pride about being born within the sound of Bow Bells. He lived on George’s Square, close to Hoxton Square. He says he knew the Krays, but whether I believe that…! My nan went to school on Brick Lane, and she mentioned that she saw the horrific incident at Bethnal Green Tube station. I was a child when she talked about it, and I regret never asking more. It’s such an important part of the local history. When I first moved to London I had periods living close to Broadway market and Bethnal Green Road, around 2005. Even since that time, the place has changed so much it’s quite amazing. I’ve always felt an immediate, unexplained emotional connection to the area, I suppose because of my local roots.
What made you decide to join Globe Community Project’s committee?
This one’s easy. Early in my time at St Margaret’s House, I had the opportunity to come along to GCP’s AGM. One aspect of my role is outreach and community, developing partnerships, so I thought, I’ll come along. What I really connect with in my job is when I see a group of people who feel passionately about taking action and improving things. And that’s what I saw. There was a real sense of ‘we’re coming together, we have strong governance.’ That always impresses me, when a group has a real heart, but also a sense of strong governance. Great things were happening, there were good project ideas, real active stuff going on. I was also inspired by the people. Susy is an amazing inspiration and a real character, and I thought wow, this is quite impressive. Just the way the group was, I was attracted to it. Then meeting with you and hearing about the potential of the group, which I think is amazing. I felt there’s something I can definitely offer, in terms of my history and skill set. I don’t come from a Buddhist background but I’m interested in anything that has that desire to help the community. So for me, it’s a learning opportunity as well. I’m seeing things from a different point of view, and I get to be in an environment where I don’t know everything.