Back in 2013, ‘The Sunday School Three’ were the main focus on the agenda. They were three of the 182 names on the main First World War memorial in St Mary’s church, who had also been commemorated on their own marble tablet. I’d written a little story about them and we planned to try and get some funding to clean it up as it was still suffering the after-effects of 20 years under a pile of compost in the vicarage garden. On Remembrance Sunday 2013, our MP, Sadiq Khan had been invited to attend the service at St Mary’s. Ever the opportunist, Reverend Roger Ryan urged me to go over and persuade him to become a patron of the planned ‘Sunday School Three’ restoration project. Little did the vicar know, but I had 179 other names on my mind. Sadiq and I went outside the church and his enthusiasm and positive response to what I had to say bowled me over. He immediately understood the concept of how matching the names on the memorial with the houses where the soldiers and sailors had once lived, connected ‘yesterday and today’ and had the potential to engage schools and the wider community. The concept of the Summerstown182 was born that morning and having Sadiq’s support and backing fired us with an energy that in two and a half years has not dimmed in the slightest. He’s been so generous since then, offering words of wisdom, letters of support, retweeting messages, attending and participating in our commemorations and ceremonies. So many of the relatives of the people involved in the Hazelhurst Road V2 bomb told me how much it meant to have him there last year doing a reading. More recently he has taken time out of his London Mayor campaign to back our efforts to put up a plaque for the Tooting boy soldier, Sidney Lewis.
A most unexpected moment and one of the proudest days of my life was when our project was given a Tooting Community Hero Award at the Houses of Parliament last year. We were in exalted company that night, so many local individuals and organisations doing great things – regeneration projects, encouraging small business, setting up foodbanks and running local networks. It was a humbling moment to be singled out. From then on we knew that we were doing good work and people were paying attention. In the midst of all this we’ve had a General Election, closely followed by the mayoral campaign but he has always had time for us. Sadiq’s message of inclusivity matches our own vision to push this project to as many people as possible, especially those who may have no connection or family involvement in the First World War. It is about togetherness and community, loving where you live and understanding how every man woman and child rallied around at a time of great adversity. Anyway, we take great pride in his achievement and it was a wonderful day for Tooting when very early last Saturday morning, Sadiq was elected Mayor of London with the biggest personal mandate in British political history. He’s ‘one of us’ and in an era of extremes and widening gaps, where many people feel excluded, that means so much.
He knows the streets we pass along on our Summerstown182 Walks, we’ve collaborated with the boys from his old school, Ernest Bevin College and and later this month we’ll be passing through the arches of the Henry Prince Estate where he was raised, on our ‘Historic Earlsfield’ Walk, part of this year’s Wandsworth Heritage Festival. We thank him for his continued support and for the eleven years he has served as our MP and wish him much success in his new job.