“A place where strangers are welcome”

5 06 2012

The We are Waltham Forest campaign was set up by Waltham Forest residents and activists as a response to the announcement by the English Defence League that they are planning a march in Walthamstow on 18 August this year. The campaign was launched to defend multicultural Walthamstow from this attack by racist and fascist thugs.

Those involved in the campaign know, as does anyone who lives in the borough, that Waltham Forest is a thriving example of a multicultural community where people of all races and religions live side by side. But until a recent trip to Vestry House museum, in Walthamstow Village, we did not know that the welcome that newcomers receive is part of the foundations upon which our little corner of London was built.

Visitors to the museum are greeted by a short history of Walthamstow and its residents, and the very first part of the story makes clear what Walthamstow is all about. By the 1100s, the plaque explains, the small communities in the area had been grouped together to form ‘Wilcomstowe’ meaning ‘a place where strangers are welcome’.

Those of us who live in Walthamstow today know that over 900 years later, although the word has changed, Walthamstow holds that same meaning. Walthamstow is a welcoming place for all people, regardless of their race or religion. That is why we will be on the streets on 18 August, to show those who seek to drive divisions in our community that they are not welcome.

They shall not pass!