Q&A: My Newham
PUBLISHED: 17:00 12 January 2018
John Bergin is CEO of Newham Music, an award-winning charity providing music education to children and young people in schools throughout the borough.
What’s your connection with the borough?
I lead Newham Music. We provide musical opportunities for over 10,000 children and young people in local schools, cultural organisations and community groups across the borough.
I believe passionately in the power of music and the arts to change lives for the better, making a real difference to how we live together.
What’s the best thing about working or living in the borough?
Newham has always been my London home, as student, musician, teacher and now heading up Newham Music.
Coming from Ireland, I have always felt welcomed here. That sense of being part of the community is one of the best things about Newham.
What one thing would you change?
Music, arts and culture are recognised as playing an important part in the urban regeneration of Newham.
However, although money and resources are crucial, I would shift the emphasis towards seeing local people as key to making it work.
We need to invest in many more participatory arts programmes, for example, our Studio Sessions which provide music technology, recording and production training for young people in community centres across the borough.
Use three words to describe the area.
Vibrant, eclectic, growing.
Who is the most inspiring person you have ever met?
Bushra Nasir, former headteacher at Plashet School in East Ham.
She instilled in me a “do whatever it takes” approach for every student, no matter their background, and followed that through herself with rigour and dedication. She absolutely inspired me to make that my goal too.
What new law would you introduce if you were the prime minister?
I would introduce a bill of rights for the homeless. We all have a responsibility in this. The homeless should be able to live with dignity and afforded equal treatment.
If you were the editor of this paper, what issues in the borough would you focus on?
I would promote and celebrate the wealth of local talent, creativity and abilities in our borough. I’m really excited about our new Community Opera, inspired by Newham’s Jonathan Lofulo, a child refugee who turned his life around to help young people.
It will provide a wonderful showcase to celebrate the talents of our young people and the rich cultural diversity of Newham.