Words written by Susan Elan Jones MP
What did you do during your IPT Fellowship visit to Tideway?
As part of my IPT Fellowship, I spent a fascinating day with Tideway at the start of the summer parliamentary recess. It is impossible to do justice to the day in a few sentences, but to summarise: The day began in Hammersmith where I joined Tideway staff, volunteers and representatives of environmental charity Thames 21, which is supported by Tideway in collecting and analysing waste (there were far too many plastic bottles!); I was interested to see that the type of waste collected is monitored so carefully. Then it was on to Putney, where amidst the boathouses of public schools is the Barns Elms Boathouse. It was great to learn about the work of London Youth Rowing and community organisation Brixton Wings (and to meet its inspiring founder, Medg Sullivan) that trains local young people in both rowing and music and is supported by Tideway. Meeting the young people was fantastic - and I (undeservedly in my view, as a non-sportsperson!) joined Olympic champion rower Andrew Triggs Hodge in presenting awards to the young people. The final part of the day was a briefing on the work of Tideway - where I listened to a presentation and met staff. The staff and apprentices of Tideway are clearly an impressive diverse group of people.
Did anything about what you learned during the IPT Fellowship visit surprise you?
I was certainly surprised by the number of women working on the super-sewer! I was also surprised and pleased by how many different ways Tideway seem to have found of linking local people with the River Thames. On the face of it, rowing, waste analysis and collection and staff diversity seem like very different things but they’re not in the context of bringing people closer to the River Thames.
How will what you learned on the visit support your parliamentary work?
The Industry and Parliament Trust does so much to help MPs in terms of our parliamentary work and my visit to Tideway, which was organised by IPT, was no exception to this. My constituency in North Wales contains award-winning stretches of canal and a world heritage site with Thomas Telford’s Pontcysyllte Aqueduct so we are always looking for ways to bring local communities closer to our canals. Although my North Wales constituency is very different from London, I think some of Tideway’s approach to local communities could work in my area. The day was also helpful to me in my capacity as co-Chair of the All Party Group for Charities and Volunteering. I am fascinated to meet innovative grassroots community groups like Brixton Wings and their partnership with Tideway is a really interesting one which I as an MP can learn much from.