The whole point of Love not Hate is to spread the love and that’s what Jo Cox is all about. We started with a hate crime incident and that’s the same as The Jo Cox Foundation – that’s why I suggested we link the two.Liz, a volunteer with the Manju Shahul-Hameed Foundation for Mental Health
Love not Hate was founded in 2016, in the aftermath of the polarisation caused by the Brexit referendum and a rise in hate crime in Croydon, with the aim of bringing the community together around ‘Love, rather than Hate’. It was particularly aimed at supporting immigrants from the EU and elsewhere, making it clear that Croydon is their home and that they are welcome.
Love not Hate also worked as a fundraiser for charity, initially raising money for the Mayor’s charity before moving to raise money for families of the victims of the Croydon tram derailment.
The initial event was such a success and so well received that the organisers, the Manju Shahul-Hameed Foundation for Mental Health, decided to repeat it each year, making it a central part of Croydon’s community landscape. Each year they have supported different projects; whether that be fundraising for the local NHS or for suicide prevention training locally.
This year, it was decided to make Love not Hate part of the Great Get Together thanks to Liz, one of the Manju Shahul-Hameed Foundation for Mental Health’s volunteers. Liz, who is a strong supporter of The Jo Cox Foundation’s work, felt it fitted well with their theme. “The whole point of Love not Hate,” says Liz, “is to spread the love and that’s what Jo Cox is all about. We started with a hate crime incident and that’s the same as The Jo Cox Foundation, that’s why I suggested we link the two.”
The Foundation decided to run a fundraising picnic and tried to make it as inclusive as possible. They approached John Ruskin College, a local school they’d been working with on other projects, to host the event. The aim was to encourage as many people as possible to come as well as to raise funds for charity. They charged visitors £2 to attend, and 46 local businesses and organisations paid £10 for a stall.
The Foundation has a large range of contacts across Croydon and it was able to reach out to these, ensuring an event which reflected Croydon’s energy and diversity. Among the activities and entertainment at the event were dance workshops ranging from Indian and Chinese dancing to salsa and zumba, singing, piano recitals, henna, face painting and crafts. As a result of the Foundation’s contacts and goodwill, much of this was laid on for free – “You just have to ask,” says Sheela, another of the Foundation’s volunteers, “people do so much out of goodwill.”
The charity was also keen to involve young people as much as possible, including getting them to run the entertainment and workshops for attendees. A 19-year-old and a 9-year-old compered the event excellently, while children ran the raffle with donations from local businesses and volunteers proving to be excellent at selling tickets in a non-pushy way. One 13-year-old, for example, put on a Bollywood dancing workshop, while the youngest person involved was just 5 years old and formed part of a Chinese dancing group.
To advertise the event, the Foundation announced it on social media and asked local partners and organisations to spread the word too. The College also helped promote it to students and stall holders were asked to share the event with their customers. Given that the picnic took place in mid June, there was a lot of competition from other things happening at the same time, so the Foundation had to put in a lot of work promoting it.
These efforts paid off on the day with hundreds of people turning up to support the picnic. There was a small downpour but it didn’t spoil the mood, which was celebratory throughout. The event raised over £2,000 in total – a huge amount given the relatively low entry fee.
The Manju Shahul-Hameed Foundation for Mental Health is a voluntary organisation which relies exclusively on volunteers who put a huge amount of time and effort into running the event. “You can’t do this without family support’” says Manju, the charity’s founder, “and charity is like a family. We don’t have any paid staff, we’re all volunteers and want to keep that. We never thought it would reach so far or get so big. We wanted to build a different kind of community involving everyone. Normally the business community wouldn’t get involved with something like this, but this was different.”
The charity’s chair, Toni Letts OBE, said “Love not Hate was introduced to Croydon to address the hate crime incidents after Britain’s vote to leave the EU. It’s heartening for the charity to organise this year’s Love not Hate. The event brought together businesses, young people and the community to raise funds for The Jo Cox Foundation with the presence of Jo’s inspirational sister Kim Leadbeater MP, her parents and family. Jo Cox is an inspiration to many and promoting love and unity is a powerful way to combat hate and build a more inclusive society.”
Perhaps the best summary of the event came from Foundation volunteer, Liz; “We put Love, not Hate, into action.”