Our primary activity is to provide engagement, and a point of contact, rather than to provide funding, although we have a limited programme of small grants to local charities and groups. We are particularly proud of the way in which our team has been able to help local small groups identify public, private and charitable sources of funding and support for projects and in this way we have been instrumental in some very large and successful programmes. In 2015, Canary Wharf Group invested £2.87 million in community projects and activities, providing valuable assistance to more than 150 local organisations.
The Community Window Gallery, now in its eighth year, is a space devoted to exhibiting work by local schools, community groups and arts projects. To date over 50 groups have had their work displayed here. Work is exhibited for up to two months at a time, see details of the current Community Window here.
We organise regular Community Forum meetings with local residents’ associations and voluntary community groups where we keep people informed about changes at Canary Wharf including future developments and also listen to concerns and requests from local people.
Each year we hold a summer barbeque and a Christmas reception for the local community and sports clubs we work with throughout the year, this is a great opportunity to celebrate their hard work and give individuals the chance to network and build valuable connections with similar organisations.
We are also proud to host the annual Speaker of Tower Hamlets Winter Ball in the East Wintergarden, which is held in honour of the Speaker’s Charity Appeal and raises many thousands of pounds for charity. The Ball is one of the occasions where both the business and local communities come together for a good cause. Each year the Speaker also invites fellow Borough Mayors and First Citizens from across London to come to Canary Wharf for a tour, which we also host.
For many years we have supported the work of charities working in our immediate neighbourhood. For example, we have supported local charity SPLASH with enough funding to employ an outreach worker to contact local young people and provide advice and engagement.
We have provided funding and support for the Isle of Dogs Community Foundation (IDCF), a trust set up at the very start of the Canary Wharf project to ensure that local people had a permanent endowment to support local community groups and to help people into work. Since 1990 Canary Wharf has been represented on the IDCF Board of Trustees. In 2013 the IDCF merged with another local charity to form the East End Community Foundation (EECF), a new trust for Tower Hamlets, Newham, Hackney and the City of London. We have made it a particular priority to work with EECF and other local groups to contact older people living on the Isle of Dogs, Poplar and Limehouse. Many of the older residents who live locally formerly worked in or around the docks. They are the people who have watched the docks slowly decline and close and who have seen Canary Wharf rise on the site. They are unlikely to benefit directly from the economic activity on the Wharf and we therefore have a special responsibility to ensure that we are good neighbours.
For the elders in the community we have hosted tea dances, originally in Cabot Hall and then the East Wintergarden, sponsored trips to the seaside, and invited groups of local pensioners into the building to see the view and to have tea and cakes. We also sponsor a Christmas Gift bag collection and delivery to hundreds of single, less well-off local pensioners. This project, run with EECF, involves people who work on the Wharf buying £10 worth of Christmas food and gifts and then volunteers delivering bags door to door.
Each year we sponsor Christmas parties for local groups of pensioners and residents associations across the Isle of Dogs and neighbouring areas. We have extended this into the local Muslim community, providing funding for Eid parties in both the Bangladeshi and Somali communities. This culminates in the company hosting a large “ifthar” (breaking of the fast) gathering for all the local Muslim elders held at a central venue within the borough.
Recently we have worked with the Somali community in Tower Hamlets on a programme to improve the educational achievement of young people, and we work extensively with the many Bangladeshi community groups across Tower Hamlets on various projects ranging from after school clubs to support for growing social enterprises.