I was in North London last night when a bus advert caught my eye. A huge stylised black and white photo of an elderly man adorned the side of the double decker; a big caption declared him ‘local hero Frank Whipple’.
But this was no ad for the latest gangster flick bore or Hollywood snore. Rather it’s a pretty ingenious campaign from a new 18-month project in London borough Tower Hamlets; to elevate the status of ordinary ‘local heroes’ (campaigners, volunteers, community workers and good citizens) to become the faces we should really be celebrating – as opposed to Eastwood, Clooney or Pitt.
‘Tower Hamlets Together’ (I’ve since learnt this morning) “is a campaign all about you and the great things that you do to make the borough a better place to live. Whether you help someone cross the road, pick up a piece of litter or volunteer at a community centre, it all helps to make a difference.”
Uniquely, Tower Hamlets residents can nominate their own local heroes. The website says it wishes to “reignite” the old sense of ‘East End community spirit’.
And I think it’s pretty cool – especially as the portraits are captured by uber-celebrity photographer Rankin, a nice touch that adds kudos to these everyday heroes.
But why stop there? In this age of vacuous non-celebrity and famous-for-five-minutes culture, as well as the good old “East End Spirit” (ritually abused in BBC’s Eastenders), let’s see more ordinary people and ordinary acts being held up everywhere.
I’m fortunate to work with a lot of inspiring young people – and my charity also holds up our ‘Kidz Board’ as our real champions. So what can we all do – not just in charities but in life everyday – to stop and say; ‘keep doing what you’re doing – you’re great’ every now and again?
To all the volunteers, those that support their local communities, the unsung champions: to me you’re all 14 feet tall (on the side of a bus)…Just like Frank Whipple (a 101 year-old carer who champions supporting older people) and Uma Akther (Young Mayor, pictured below).
Well done Tower Hamlets.