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Islington high-rise estate’s ‘dad’ honoured with award

TMO Committee "so proud" of Lennox Charles

14 June, 2019 — By Emily Finch

Lennox ‘Bumba’ Charles: ‘You have to be a fatherly figure’

A “FATHER figure” at the country’s first high-rise social housing blocks – whose mission is to see communities united – was recognised with a lifetime achievement award this week.

Lennox “Bumba” Charles, 69, has been part of the volunteer-run Tenants’ Management Organisation at Bruns­wick Close estate, in Finsbury, for 20 years. The estate had the first high-rise social housing blocks when it was built 60 years ago by Ember­ton, Franck & Tardew.

Mr Charles received the award from the Nation­al Federation of TMOs at a ceremony in Brighton over the weekend.

Back in 2010, the Tribune reported how youngsters were terrorising residents living on the estate while the buildings were falling into a state of disrepair.

Mr Charles said: “What made me join the TMO was I didn’t like the broken furniture, faeces and vagrancy on the estate.”

His first mission was to unite the estate, which has three 14-storey towers and low-rise flats for elderly residents.

“The estate is multicultural and I didn’t like people not talking to each other,” Mr Charles said. “As chairman, the first thing I did was have a family day and that really got the estate going.”

A basketball coach who runs a community team, London Zip, he said it was important to “get people to respect each other, love each other and realise we’re just one – no matter which part of the world you come from”.

He added that he “blushed” when he heard he had won the award which recognises commitment.

He said: “Maybe I’m negative and don’t think anything about myself but we are only passing through this world. I’ve got a motto that ‘we only go from the womb to the tomb and enjoy the moments  in between and you’ve got to love people.’”

He had advice for people wishing to be leaders of a TMO or any community organisation.

“If you want to be the chair of any kind of estate you have to be a mother. You don’t have to have children but you have to understand and love people and want to be serving people,” he said.

“Or you have to be a fatherly figure so every­one is your child, or your sister or brother so that’s how you have a level head. If you don’t and you’re not impartial, you rock the boat. If you look at only your own prob­lems and use the position to elevate yourself you’re not going anywhere.”

Lennox Charles outside one of the blocks in the Brunswick Close Estate 

He said one of the “greatest things” to happen to the estate was when they found their latest manager, Grace Udoh, around four years ago. Ms Udoh is employed by the TMO.

She said: “Lennox has worked hard and deserves the ward. Before Lennox joined they had real issues with management and membership to get people to be interested in the TMO. The council were about to take it back in house but he singlehandedly went to the council and said he would turn it around and he did.”

Ms Udoh said “damage had been done” to the reputation of TMOs following the Grenfell Tower fire in West London two years ago where 72 people died. The TMO managing social housing in Kensington and Chelsea was council owned and run was not a grassroots organisation.

Ms Udoh said: “TMOs are proactive we are more on the ground and effective face to face. My door is always open to residents.”
Mr Charles retired as chair of the TMO last year. His next-door neigh­bour Lucy Chapman is now chairwoman.

She said the committee were “so proud” of Lennox.

“He is always ready to help out and over the years has really improved things for the better for residents,” she said. “He is our TMO and estate dad.”

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