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Rev Rosemia Brown: ‘My journey from the Seychelles to Lower Clapton’s ‘murder mile’

PUBLISHED: 09:08 12 March 2018

Rev Rosemia Brown inside St James the Great Church Lower Clapton. Picture: Polly Hancock

Rev Rosemia Brown inside St James the Great Church Lower Clapton. Picture: Polly Hancock

Polly Hancock

Rev Rosemia Brown was in the Gazette last week after vowing to sleep rough in Westminster. She tells Emma Bartholomew about her journey from the Seychelles – and working in the old ‘murder mile’

Rev Rosemia Brown inside St James the Great Church Lower Clapton.Rev Rosemia Brown inside St James the Great Church Lower Clapton.

Rev Rosemia Brown came to England aged 19 in 1973 to “get away from the small island attitude” on the Seychelles where she was born.

“You know, everyone watching everybody like in a goldfish bowl, and they make up stories about what you aren’t doing,” said Rosemia, 64.

“It’s attitude, isn’t it? I didn’t want to get married so I thought: ‘Let me get out of here.’”

Having been baptised aged two months, she feels as though she was “more or less born in the church”, and has always been a “manic going to church kind of person”.

Rev Rosemia Brown outside St James the Great in Lower Clapton Road. Picture: Polly HancockRev Rosemia Brown outside St James the Great in Lower Clapton Road. Picture: Polly Hancock

But she worked for the police and the Department for Social Security before she was ordained deacon in 1999.

“That’s the kind of place I’ve gone to – things where there’s justice,” she said.

“And when I think there’s no justice I leave it.

“Places where I can work to make things better for someone else.

“If I wasn’t going to the church and didn’t have that side of life there would be a great void.”

Despite her early misgivings, she did get married to to Burnett in 1980, and went on to have a son and a daughter.

“I didn’t want to get married because I wouldn’t want any men to oppress me,” she said.

“I have to make up my mind what I want to do. But my husband is a very good man.”

She worked at St John-at-Hackney church and in Shoreditch before coming to St James in Lower Clapton Road 14 years ago. At the time, the stretch of road was dubbed the “murder mile”.

“It was a notorious place,” said Rosemia. “People were being killed all the time. Everyone was afraid.

“People were throwing their needles outside the church and peeing up against it, and robbing people’s bags. We had to work together as community leaders.

“I tell you what, it is so much better now. People can go out and they are not worried about going to church or the cinema in the evening.”

What she values most about her job is being able to talk to people, and speaking for them when they can’t speak for themselves.

“Sitting alongside others who need confidence and need to be told to have courage and there is hope,” she said.

“If they feel no one is taking notice, I like to give them a little lift up.”

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