'Hackney is different now': Meet the new Speaker Kam Adams
PUBLISHED: 16:05 19 June 2019 | UPDATED: 16:05 19 June 2019
Hackney's new Speaker Kam Adams, who has just taken over from Clare Potter, tells Emma Bartholomew how he got into politics and his plans to help bring Tech City closer to residents this year
Kam Adams' first foray into politics came after moving from Nigeria to study at a university in Paris where students are notoriously militant.
But it was only years later when he moved to England that he joined the Labour Party.
In 1983, when he arrived, Hoxton was a very different place.
"Most of my neighbours were National Front," said the 60-year-old father-of-three. "I had to secure my door with a sofa every night in order to be safe and when I greeted anyone on the street, I wouldn't get a response."
Despite the hostility he opened an Afro-Caribbean grocery store which became a "mini citizen's advice bureau".
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"People came to seek advice, to hangout or to talk about the problems in the area," said Kam, a teacher with a Master's in econometrics. "That was my first real interaction with the community and I thoroughly enjoyed it."
He and his wife Modupe Oyefusi-Adams, a Nigerian princess, set up a homework club on the Colville Estate which still runs today. He got to know Cllr Chris McShane when he came to chair meetings for the tenants and residents' association of which he was also part.
"We would talk about government policies, and he encouraged me to come to a Labour party meeting," said Kam. Cllr Tom Ebutt then persuaded him to stand as a councillor and he was elected to Hoxton East and Shoreditch in 2014.
"It was good because I'm passionate about my area, and I knew I could make a difference," said Kam. "As a resident you know what you are going through, and others are going through the same thing as well."
Having spent the last year as deputy speaker he's thrilled to take on the full role: "It gives me the opportunity to showcase Hackney," he said. "To tell people that we are different now, and we are more inclusive."
This year he will be fund raise for three charities: The Ivy Street Family Centre and Growbaby, Sporting Hackney Mind, and Sistah Space.
He also wants to encourage people who are underrepresented to take part in the growth of businesses in Tech City to spread the benefit.
"That's the big plan," he said. "I want the growth of Hackney to benefit the population, by bringing businesses and the community together at events. We need a bridge to make people aware."