On Friday 8th February, SBS joined Southall Community Alliance and a host of diverse organisations to protest against the sale of Southall Town Hall to the Vishwa Hindu Temple in Southall by Ealing Council.
We joined over one hundred members of the community to protest against the sale of the Town Hall. As well as protesting with banners and chants, a new Southall flag was raised above the Town Hall, signifying community unity. At 2:30 pm, members of the community entered Southall Broadway crossroads, bringing the traffic to a standstill. The event was covered by the local, national and international media.
Southall Town Hall is home to an array of community organisations that provide advice and assistance to the people of Southall and the surrounding area. Organisations such as Southall Community Alliance and the Migrant Advisory and Advocacy Service use the premises to assist disadvantaged groups and communities in Southall, enabling them to participate in society by promoting equality, good race relations and community cohesion. SBS has also held meetings and events at the Town Hall around issues ranging from domestic violence, religious fundamentalism and immigration raids in Southall. We also organised a successful street theatre on domestic violence on the doorsteps of the Town Hall.
The sale of Southall Town Hall, the only secular public space left, will be a tremendous loss to the most vulnerable in our community. Once lost, this vital space – which furthers public participation and welfare regardless of gender, age, race, or faith – will not be regained. We are deeply concerned about the steady removal of secular, safe and inclusive civic spaces that enable vulnerable individuals to access information and support without fear or judgement.
When asked for a comment, Council Leader Julian Bell stated that the sale of the Town Hall was part of his “priority” to “look after the vulnerable elderly and vulnerable children in the borough.” Southall Town Hall is home to a number of projects that specifically target the elderly and children in Southall. This includes groups such as ‘Diabetes Champions’, which raise awareness and support for people with Type 2 diabetes; ‘Home Instead Ealing’, which provides companionship, personal care and home help to the elderly; and a ‘Winter Pressures’ project, which provides advice and support for people during the cold winter months. The Town Hall also provides support to parents and young people working with Social Services, and hosts a ‘Fostering Network’, which recruits families to provide a safe home for Ealing’s vulnerable and homeless children.
The Council leader has not been able to provide any cogent reason for the sale of the Town Hall; he has yet to give a satisfactory explanation of why this vital civic space is being sold to the Hindu Temple which has no track record in working for social justice, inclusion and equality for all in our community. There is no reason to believe that the Temple will deliver any benefits to all the elderly, children or other marginalised groups that must be served.
At a time of growing unemployment, destitution, alienation, and mental health and other pressing social problems in our communities, the removal of vital public assets must be opposed even more vigorously. s. It is imperative that Southall Town Hall continues to serve the borough’s increasingly diverse population, but in particular, the young, elderly, disabled, women and migrant groups that have the most to lose by the sell-off.
The protest on Friday was a brilliant success, and a taste of the campaigning yet to come. Southall Community Alliance has launched a Judicial Review to challenge Ealing Council’s decision to sell the Town Hall. If you would like to have your say and voice your opposition to the sale, please join the Save Southall Town Hall campaign. Meetings are held at 6:30 pm every Monday in Southall Town Hall.