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Barking and Dagenham launches Borough of Culture bid with huge party outside town hall

PUBLISHED: 19:16 17 November 2017

School children gathered to support Barking and Dagenham's bid. Picture: Tom Horton

School children gathered to support Barking and Dagenham's bid. Picture: Tom Horton

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Barking and Dagenham launched its Borough of Culture bid in style today with council leader Darren Rodwell leading an army of supporters on a conga dance outside the town hall.

Huge crowds turned out to support the bid, including Barking MP Margaret Hodge, London Assembly member Unmesh Desai, as well as hundreds of school children set to benefit if the council succeeds.

“Our bid is really simple - it’s the people. Other boroughs are much richer than us - we’re the poorest in London. That’s why our bid is coming from the community,” he said.

Unlike other boroughs who are outsourcing work on their application to specialist firms, Barking and Dagenham is looking to harness local support and strength of feeling within the community to make its case.

Pupils and teachers were present to join the celebrations and show their support.

Margaret Hodge addresses the crowd. Picture: Tom Horton Margaret Hodge addresses the crowd. Picture: Tom Horton

Jenni Lewis, head of drama at Dagenham Park, said students had suffered from a lack of funding in the arts and thinks that if the borough was to secure the £1.1million funding that is awarded to the successful borough they could really flourish.

“It would allow the students to realise their potential,” she said.

Jeff Goy, deputy headteacher of Eastbury Comprehensive School, is adamant that a successful bid would benefit his students.

“If you look at Barking and Dagenham, it can only be a good thing to get this funding. The students would benefit a lot,” he said.

Darren Rodwell and Liza Vallence show their support. Picture: Tom Horton Darren Rodwell and Liza Vallence show their support. Picture: Tom Horton

“I thought the launch was fantastic - it was a lot of fun.”

Mr Desai, who represents the borough in the London Assembly, said he would personally speak to mayor of London Sadiq Khan to make the case for Barking and Dagenham securing the funding.

Liza Vallence, Studio 3 Arts CEO, was the master or ceremony for the launch.

“I think it went brilliantly and everybody enjoyed themselves,” she said.

“We don’t take ourselves too seriously, but we are very serious about this bid.”

The centrepiece of the launch was the giant conga line, lead by the leader of the council, the MP and Liza. There was also entertainment in the form of dancers from Studio 3 Arts.

And following on from last month’s announcement that a Hollywood-style film studio is coming to Barking and Dagenham, she says the bid’s launch could not have come at a better time.

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