Since its creation in 2015, Living Under One Sun (LUOS) at the heart of Tottenham has blossomed into a multi award winning community organisation and charity, delivering a range of front line services and projects based on creating community led wellbeing and healthy connected neighbourhoods.
We catch up with Leyla Laksari at an exciting time as LUOS reaches a key milestone of achieving their crowdsourcing target to create its vision of Tottenham Café Connect. Amongst other supporters, Anthology was proud to donate £2,500 to help make their dream a reality.
Leyla has lived in Tottenham since 1993 and with more than 33 years’ experience in community empowerment in London set up LUOS with a group of mothers from the community in 2005.
Here is LUOS’ and Leyla’s story…
Q. Could you tell us a little more about LUOS and how/when the non-profit organisation was set up?
A. Living Under One Sun was created in 2005 in a corner of Tottenham by mothers of many cultures and ages wanting to reduce their isolation and make their much-neglected neighbourhood safer.
Through a weekly ‘meet, cook and eat’ peer support group we shared our life stories, gained trust, confidence and strength to reach out – the feeling was '‘We are all equal under one sun’'! With a place to meet, a pot full of food and some fun and friendship, we experienced the power of what we can learn and do for ourselves, our families and our neighbourhood.
This quickly grew into a local ‘village square’ meeting place for all, accessing services, gaining qualifications, training community leaders and delivering projects, supported by a Council community worker.
In 2008, we registered as a community-led, not for profit, limited company. Later that year and cut off from green spaces, we took on transforming part of a vandalised site on Tottenham Marshes, creating a beautiful community allotment - and began our journey of working with schools, other community groups and partners.
In 2011, against a background of cuts in services and support, like many others our future was uncertain. As volunteers, and despite no funds or workers, our response was to build on our community’s aspirations, believing that people, nature and spaces are our true heritage and assets. With determination to meet our community’s needs and hard work we began a new phase. We gathered support from the community, Council and partners, secured a base, won funding from the Peoples Millions Lottery for our Blooming Beds and Bees project, appointed a part time coordinator and won the Best Community Group of the Year Award for the UK from The Conservation Trust.
Q. How about your background? Have you always had an interest in setting up an organisation like LUOS?
A. Community development work has always been an integral part of what I do and who I am from being a Mathematics teacher to setting up community projects and building community infrastructure. I believe every neighbourhood needs places to meet and share stories, our heritage, vision and skills - and be part of the positive and inclusive solutions for where we live.
Q. Congratulations on securing the funding for your ‘Tottenham Café Connect’ project! What will this bring to the area and how can people support to make this a reality?
A. We are thrilled to have reached our £44,596 target to fund the creation of Tottenham Café Connect and we thank all those who contributed including Anthology to make this possible! This multi-purpose community hub and café will be created from a disused bowling club and green. Connecting people and reducing social isolation - delivering new skills for life and employment – and growing food!
The bowling club will be redecorated, retaining heritage and memorabilia, to create a flexible multi-purpose activity space. The external green will be brought back into safe use and turned into a space for the community to learn and share skills through a range of activities. We will create a safe place for people of all ages, abilities and cultures to share ideas and aspirations, be up-skilled and active, and engage positively in their neighbourhood. Thanks to the generous donations received we can now achieve the following:
Q. Who makes up LUOS?
A. Many local residents, teachers and those who have used our services to progress in their lives. Some have stayed with us to be the trustees of the charity. We’re embedded in the community with 10 (voluntary) trustees, alongside our volunteers who are active across a range of projects and activities. We also have myself as co-ordinator and two part-time staff working on the allotment/growing projects and seasonal tutors
Q. What activities are currently available for local residents to take part in?
A. At the Community Allotment we’re currently offering leadership training in organic food growing, beekeeping and biodiversity, healthy cooking and eating, Eco arts and community action research and development.
In different Haringey locations, we are creating estate based gardening and food growing projects, helping to set up residents’ associations and Friends of Parks groups, and creating outdoor meeting places.
We have a host of hobby groups such as a cycling club and bike maintenance sessions (Dr Bike), a walking club which includes local heritage walks, a sewing club for sewing skills and enterprise development and an over 55s club along with intergenerational activities.
We also have a presence at many local events which residents can help us organise and take part in such as Tottenham Ploughman’s River Fest and Winter Fest, Hale Village Festival, Tottenham Flower and Produce Show.
Q. What is your proudest moment for you/LUOS?
A. That was finding our name, LIVING UNDER ONE SUN – all equal under one sun and staying true to it every day!
Everyday there’s a special moment, every new person we meet and connect to, every time we share and look for what we can do!
We have survived against all odds, with no core funding, working 7 days a week. We’ve managed to stay true to our simple mandate of working in a neighbourhood and building local leadership through community development work in health and wellbeing (with a holistic approach - social, economic, emotional and physical wellbeing)
Q. What do you enjoy most about working/living in Tottenham Hale?
A. Lots…we love Tottenham Marshes!
Along with the vast diversity, exciting ideas and heritage within the area, we also love knowing that there’s so much to look forward to with the many challenges and changes coming.
We really enjoy meeting people, sharing ideas and being part of protecting good things that connect us all and making sure important conversations and planning our futures include us all.
The exciting partnership and community development work is like growing organic food, looking after and preparing the soil and enriching it with good, honest and quality conversations, sharing knowledge and skills then planting good seeds and just trusting you do your share of the work while nature takes care of their good work….and, best of all, harvesting, sharing and celebrating what we sow in a healthier, happier neighbourhood.
Q. What are your future ambitions for LUOS?
A. To find core funding to ensure that LUOS can continue creating safe and welcoming community places where people can be visible and positively active as part of the local neighbourhood - making the city we build for the future a better and inclusive place!
With Anthology becoming part of the Tottenham Hale community with our Hale Works development, we look forward to our continued work with LUOS to support their vision in the community.
*Photography by Simon Braggins: http://www.simonbraggins.co.uk/