Local hero, chocolate for hearts, antisemitism, vaccines and home carers

Del Brenner

Cllr Ian Rathbone remembers Den Brenner - Credit: Ian Rathbone

Unsung hero: Tribute to waterway campaigner

Cllr Ian Rathbone, Lea Bridge ward, writes:

There are people in our community who do a lot to improve our common life but whose contribution may not be heard much about. We sometimes call them “unsung heroes”.

Del Brenner, who died in January, would have laughed at being called a hero but his background work over many decades has meant that we have managed to keep our conservation areas, buildings and wildlife environment, and because of his work, our local canals are used and alive and benefitting all the community.

He was a key figure in the Regent’s Canal conservation area advisory committee, and campaigned to maintain and preserve the historic waterway, particularly against over-redevelopment which ruins the landscape and also privatises access to the waterway.

I had the privilege of working with him on various campaigns, fighting to save Lathams Wood Yard and the industrial footprint at Lea Bridge.

He was a man of many letters – you can see a few of the many thousands he must have written on the Friends of Regent’s Canal’s website 

One of the other things that campaigners like Del have to put up with is being labelled “troublemaker”, although I think Del was sometimes pleased because at least that meant things were being stirred up.

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He was meticulous in his preparation and arguments and spent many hours on making sure he had his facts and figures correct, which often unseated his organisation opponents who thought they could just walk all over objectors like Del.

With Del, they had to sharpen up, pull up their socks and make sure they had done their homework beforehand.

He was very quiet and well-mannered, and well-spoken in all his presentations, which again was off-putting to those in the corporate world who like to brand “troublemakers” as wild-eyed, shouty, rebel people.

He was usually calm and looked like your average Mr Suburban Man.

He also promoted ideas to ensure that canals are used for freight and campaigned for big construction projects to remove spoil on barges instead of heavy polluting lorries.
He was often ahead of his time and today’s green campaigners would find he was a

 early campaigner against climate change and pollution.

He had perseverance and was sometimes irritated by those who were not concerned to engage with him at the information level he operated at. His big word was “why?”, followed by “what if?”.

I wanted to write about Del – even though he might tick me off for doing so – to encourage all those who are currently struggling against the goliaths of corporates and other organisations.
And for those in corporate bodies thinking that “at last they won’t be pestered by Del anymore” – think again. Along the way he taught and inspired a few others how to do it!

Sugary challenge

Emma Day, head of Dechox, British Heart Foundation, writes: 

This March, the British Heart Foundation (BHF) is encouraging the British public to take on their Dechox challenge and give up chocolate and other sugary snacks for the month of March.
Dechox Warriors will help to raise lifesaving funds for the 7.6 million people in the UK living with heart and circulatory diseases. 

A recent survey carried out by the BHF revealed that biscuits were the UK’s favourite sugary snack (42 per cent), closely followed by chocolate (41pc). With the findings demonstrating just how important biscuits and chocolate are to us, giving them up will be no easy feat. 

Covid-19 has cut our future research funding in half, so we need your donations to carry on funding medical breakthroughs into heart and circulatory diseases such as heart attacks, strokes, diabetes and vascular dementia. 

  • Please join the thousands of other people across the UK who have already signed up to Dechox and say no to chocolate for the month of March: bhf.org.uk/dechox

Fighting racism

Martin Sugarman, Hackney born and bred, and retired teacher, writes:

In last week’s issue you kindly printed my letter on anti-Israel stickers posted on the cash machines of the HSBC bank in Mare Street. 

These offensive, intimidating and racist stickers have also been found on council parking signs in Lauriston Road and all along Lower Clapton Road bus stops from Lea Bridge Road roundabout to Manor House tube station, where posters also were found on a six-foot-high bus stop advertising holder.

The latter two deeds are particularly contemptible as they are highly populated Jewish areas of the borough.

You may also like to know that particularly racist anti-Jewish graffiti was found on White Post Lane by the side of the Lea river as the road passes over a bridge into the Olympic stadium area last Sunday.

Our teams have reported all these to the police.


People attend a temporary coronavirus vaccination centre at the East London Mosque, in Whitechapel,

People at a temporary vaccination centre held at the East London Mosque, Whitechapel - Credit: PA

Cllr Khaled Noor, chair, Muslim Professionals Forum, writes:

The virus can affect anyone – regardless of their immigration status or whether they have a home.

It is important that everyone can access the vaccine to protect the whole community.
More than that, however, it should be a basic human right to access healthcare – and we welcome and support the campaign which seeks to make the paper policy a reality.

It is important that Muslim organisations swing behind this campaign to send out the signal that it is a call from all communities in the UK.

We urge Muslim professionals to sign up their mosques, community organisations and their professional organisations.

The Prophet Muhammad (pbuh) told us: “Allah is kind, and He loves kindness in all matters.”
It is up to the Muslim community to show kindness in action at this difficult time and ensure that #VaccinesForAll swiftly becomes a reality – in the UK and across the world.
Please sign up to show your support.

Home carers

Devon Prosser, Revitalise, writes:

As an organisation which specialises in providing respite support to disabled people and their carers, we have taken it upon ourselves to ask the government to prioritise the vaccination of Britain’s army of home carers or risk the NHS becoming overwhelmed if they catch Covid-19.

We are trying to get the message out there that without immunisation at the earliest possible opportunity, carers will no longer be able to perform their caring duties and our hospitals will be inundated.

One family carer contracting the virus means at least two people needing extra support, doubling the impact.

Whilst unpaid carers are labelled as priority group six for the Covid vaccine - recognising the important role they play in supporting the NHS - the reality is that many carers have still not been offered the vaccine.

There are an estimated 13.6 million unpaid carers in the UK today, of which 4.5 million became carers since the pandemic began. These carers provide vital support, often around the clock, relieving enormous strain from the NHS.

One carer, Hilary, has been looking after her disabled son Shaun for 15 years, despite having emphysema, chronic kidney disease, and a problem with her aortic valve.

Hilary has faced enormous challenges since the start of the pandemic, and has yet to be offered the Covid-19 vaccination.

We would like your readers to know that we are welcoming disabled people and carers through the doors of our Revitalise Sandpipers centre in Merseyside in an attempt to circumvent some of the immense pressures facing unpaid carers who have not been able to access a respite break for nearly a year due to the pandemic.

We have funding available to subsidise your break, and can also provide transport across the country.

The pressure is continuing to build for these carers, with no end in sight. Anyone who feels they can benefit from our help only needs to ask.

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