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Public Engagement

Community Connections Grant Scheme

With the decision not to hold the Festival of Communities this year, we provided an alternative opportunity for Queen Mary staff and students to develop and sustain relationships with local residents and community groups through the Community Connections grant scheme.

The Community Connections grant scheme is designed to enable those at Queen Mary to create/adapt activities which bring people together: generating conversations around these shared experiences within our communities.

Funding of up to £500 per Queen Mary project was available to create new or adapt existing engagement activities. These activities could be in response to a community need, a desire to bring neighbours in a building/street together to share an experience, or planning for a celebratory event when COVID-19 restrictions allow.

Successful projects

The scheme closed in May, and we have been able to fund 19 really varied and exciting activities engaging residents across Tower Hamlets and east London over the summer months.

Ashley Marshalleck - Community Foundation Coordinator, Queen Mary Students’ Union (QMSU) 

Targeting families in Tower Hamlets during the school summer holidays, sports staff based at Queen Mary Students’ Union will produce 30-50 free activity packs to supplement their successful summer Sports Camp offer. These packs will include basic sport equipment and suggested activity ideas. As well as facilitating sport, young people will be encouraged to also consider the importance of a healthy, balanced diet and mindfulness. The activity booklet will provide suggested ideas for activities using the equipment provided and will include some simple, healthy snack recipes and a timetable template that can be used to plan activities each week. The equipment provided will enable the young people to engage both indoors and outdoors, as an individual or with others.  

Fran Ridout - Queen Mary  Legal Advice Centre, School of Law 

ReImagine Law is an open access, podcast which aims to help those interested in entering the profession understand the very different roles and sectors within the profession. Aimed at students from year 11 at school, through to those undertaking training contracts and pupillages, ReImagine Law is an innovative legal education podcast series to broaden access to the profession and democratise career knowledge. The series helps listeners to learn about the huge breadth of careers within the legal sector and provides access to a ‘behind the scenes look’ into the profession from those who work in it.  

A Queen Mary student will work to help broaden the reach of the podcast episodes and will enable ReImagine Law to connect with more prospective students and more broadly within the east London community. The student will enable ReImagine Law to actively reach out to every secondary school and sixth form in the London Boroughs of Tower Hamlets, Newham, Redbridge, Hackney, the City of London, Barking and Dagenham, Westminster, Waltham Forest and Islington to encourage active engagement in the resource.This will hopefully lead to more relationships with staff in schools / sixth forms and the channel to both adapt content in accordance with feedback, and collaborate on future episode content. 

Farah Hussain - PhD student in the School of Politics and International Relations 

Farah has designed an activity to empower women in the local community to play a more active role in public life. Using her knowledge of local politics and her experience as a local councillor in an east London borough, she will tap into existing networks of women, such as Women 100 run by Citizens UK, to co-design a series of online events with upto 30 women from east London boroughs who are interested in doing more in their local areas. The events will be tailored around these women’s requirements and interests; whether they want to become school governors, community activists or stand for election in the local elections in May 2022. The events will bring people with experience in these areas to the women, in an accessible way, where they are able to ask questions and find out about different kinds of roles.  

Gaurav Bhalla - SAMDA, Barts and the London Student Association (BLSA) 

Student Assisted Medical and Dental Applications (SAMDA) is a volunteering group led by medical and dental students at Queen Mary. They focus on supporting students in year 11/12 in east London who are applying for medicine and dentistry to maximize their potential and raise the chances of success in their applications.  

SAMDA will be running an in-person taster day event for local young people to explore life as a medical and dental student and will focus on learning specific medical skills and techniques, physiology practicals, basic life support, a London Air Ambulance Tour and a tour of campus.  

Holly Casey - Centre of the Cell, Blizard Institute, School of Medicine and Dentistry

The Centre of the Cell team will distribute activity packs to local families via the Idea Store in Whitechapel. The packs will include six activities, with everything families need to complete each one. The activities each cover a different scientific topic and are aimed at a different age-group, to make sure there is something for every family. The activities included are:  

  • Scab making, using wool, stickers and sequins to represent different aspects of the scab-forming process 
  • A game to explore the way your brain and memory work 
  • A colouring activity from the show ‘A Mummy for Melissa’ which introduces younger children to the ideas of inheritance, cells and DNA 
  • ‘Create your intestines’ activity 
  • ‘Fangtastic Beasts’ – an activity comparing the teeth of different animals, to introduce children to the ideas of adaptation and specialization 
  • A pack of Gene Trumps 

Families will be encouraged to post photos of what they create on social media with a specific hashtag to track engagement. This will be incentivised with a lucky draw offer to attend a free show at Centre of the Cell over the Summer holidays in 2021. 

Helen Green - Employer Engagement & Internships Coordinator, School of Business and Management 

Collaborating with Stepney All Saints Secondary School, the School of Business and Management will hire current students who previously studied at Stepney All Saints to return to the school (either virtually or in person) in June to participate in a transition preparation event. The event will help prepare pupils for university, sharing what the student experience is like and how pupils should prepare over the summer (for students starting in the autumn). This will enable the pupils to feel more familiar with university life before coming to Queen Mary in the Autumn, and may also assist with retention and the student experience once at Queen Mary. 

Ahsen Ustaoglu - PhD student in the Blizard Institute, School of Medicine and Dentistry 

Ahsen volunteers with the London Innovation Society as a STEM Ambassador, and she will be working with young women aged 16-18 in Sixth Forms in Tower Hamlets to raise awareness of changes young women can make towards more sustainable lifestyle choices. 

60 packs will be sent to local young women containing sustainable sanitary products and an information booklet. A researcher from the School of Geography will pre-record a talk on reproductive health and women’s rights around sustainable lifestyle choices. This will be linked in the information leaflet that will be placed into the boxes that are delivered. 
The Women’s Environmental Network are also partners on the project, and are providing training to Ahsen and other to become Environmenstrual ambassadors, delivering accurate information to the target audience. 

Meghan Mizen - Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre, School of Law 

The Queen Mary Legal Advice Centre (QMLAC) runs the Prisoner Property Project. In a typical year this project sees teams of Undergraduate Law students design workshops for Peer Advisers in HMP Huntercombe on the topic of lost property. Prisoners have great difficulty retrieving property which gets lost in the system if they are moved between prisons, and when property is incorrectly retained by the police following an investigation. As expected, property escalates in importance if you are in a situation where an individual has less of it. Students typically deliver workshops to help empower the Peer Advisers to assist prisoners with claim forms and letters before action. In addition, for particular cases students hold client appointments inside the prisons (supervised by volunteer lawyers) and then write follow-up letters of advice for prisoners.  

Due to the Covid-19 pandemic, students were unable to attend HMP Huntercombe this academic year, and so the students created an activity kit for the prisoners’ (and their friends and families who maybe assisting them) containing useful information, example forms and example scenarios for them to complete. The activity pack is available in English, but these funds will allow for translation into other languages and to print more packs for distribution. 

Tanmeet Singh – LLM student in Centre for Commercial Law Studies (CLLS) 

Focussing on the borough of Newham, Tanmeet will build awareness about the rights of the victims of domestic violence, especially amongst migrant and BAME communities. The issue of domestic violence is often desensitised amongst particular communities for various cultural reasons. Hoping to work with local migrant charities and community groups, Tanmeet will produce guidance for different communities on this topic.  

Gakuya Kitada - Medical student in the Institute of Population Health Sciences, School of Medicine and Dentistry 

SEEDS (Sowing Empowering and Engaging Discussions on Substances) is a community engagement project by global health students & alumni on drug policy, de-stigmatising drug use and increasing awareness of harm reduction. Through the SEEDS project, the team will engage in compassionate conversations with members of the community in Tower Hamlets to encourage people who are using drugs problematically to seek help, and to campaign for drug policy reforms. 

The team will be running a 50 day social media campaign to encourage members of the community to think and reflect on drug policy and drug use and encourage people to start having compassionate conversations with others to de-stigmatise drugs and encourage users to seek help. This will be followed by a day of community action in Altab Ali Park to talk to residents about the campaign. 

Nicola Firman – Health Data Scientist and Meredith Hawking - Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Blizard Institute, School of Medicine and Dentistry and  

Alison Formosa and Sasha Formosa, local residents who set up an online cooking class series for children in Bow during the Covid-19 Pandemic. 

Following the success and popularity of six online cooking sessions held during the recent lockdown, researchers studying childhood obesity in east London have partnered with Alison to continue these sessions. Alison and her eight year-old daughter, Sasha, will lead live online cooking classes to primary school-aged children living in Tower Hamlets. The cooking classes are designed to teach children how to prepare and cook easy, tasty, healthy and affordable meals for the whole family to enjoy. The focus of these sessions is on the child participants, who can learn new skills whilst supervised by their parents/guardians. Each session will teach a new recipe, with recipe ingredients lists, including any allergens and preparation instructions sent in advance to the session participants and their families.  

Meredith and Nicola will attend the online classes to meet the families and answer any questions about their research. Their multidisciplinary team combines health data science and qualitative methods to explore how children and their families navigate childhood obesity, specifically in east London. The cooking sessions will teach children about making their own healthy food – an activity which has the potential to improve both the physical and mental health of children and their families. The recipes/pictures that children submit to the competition will celebrate and encourage healthy eating. By partnering on this initiative, the team will also build relationships with families who may want to be involved in working with the team on future research. 

Anna Somner – Masters student in Heritage Management, School of Business and Management 

Connected to The Matchgirls organisation through the Heritage Management course, Anna and the group will be organising a book launch to raise awareness of the Matchgirls Strike of 1888. The book is a result of a poetry and flash fiction competition that took place at the end of 2020, highlighting the role of creative arts in re-imagining the Matchgirls.  

They will also be holding a connected event at the Queen Mary Mile End campus for local young people to mark the strike anniversary, to celebrate the legacy of the strike and standing up to unfair practices

Eli Vilar - Lecturer in Spanish Studies, School of Languages, Linguistics and Film 

The Language team will provide an opportunity for local secondary school students to practice modern languages with native speakers from the Queen Mary community. Held online, secondary school students will have the opportunity to practice 30mins of language speaking in one to one or small group sessions. Several languages will be offered from beginner level upwards to practice either a language they are studying or one that they would like to try to learn

Victoria Kemp - Research Manager, School of Medicine and Dentistry 

Held in a location in Hackney, three activities will be run with residents to start conversations sustainable food choices and systems. Residents will be given take home bags containing printed recipes for meal ideas with common leftovers and a grow your own pea shoots kit.  More details to be announced soon. 

Tahrina Haque - Bilingual Research Assistant, Wolfson Institute of Preventive Medicine, School of Medicine and Dentistry 

The East London Parkinson's Disease (PD) Project aims to recruit people from the BAME community living in east London. PD is a rapidly growing neurodegenerative disease which has traditionally been researched with a white community. This research project will engage the BAME community and help to identify factors affecting people with Parkinson’s Disease which ultimately will allow researchers to expand their knowledge regarding the disease so that in future there will be more effective diagnosis and treatment for BAME Parkinson’s patients. 

Working with the East London Mosque in Whitechapel, the team will run an information stall to hold conversations with local residents about Parkinson's Disease and engage them with the research being carried out locally, and its importance. The team will produce Bengali information leaflets and activity books for members to take home and collect details to keep in touch with interested residents.  

Aylin Baysan - Clinical Reader in Cariology and Saroash Shahid - Senior Lecturer in Dental Anatomy and Biomaterials, Institute of Dentistry, School of Medicine and Dentistry 

Diabetes is a chronic metabolic disorder that affects approximately 4 million people in the UK, with over one-eighth of the population still undiagnosed. Prevalence of Type 2 diabetes is high in Tower Hamlets, partly due to the large Bangladeshi community who are more susceptible to this chronic disease. Type 2 diabetes is currently affecting 14,9153 adults in Tower Hamlets on the local GP registers. However, an estimated 1,800 people remain undiagnosed. Reported oral health complications associated with diabetes include dry mouth, dental decays, gum problems and soft tissue lesions of the tongue with oral mucosa. If Diabetes patients are not informed how to maintain good oral health, dental decays develop frequently and this leads to a vicious cycle of dental treatment. As a consequence, losing teeth due to decay would significantly have an adverse effect on quality of life for Diabetes patients. 

Public awareness and patient empowerment play an essential role in management of diabetes and its oral complications. The Dentistry team will give educational talks and provide oral health care tool kits for Diabetes patients in Mile End Hospital. These will include instructions on maintaining good oral hygiene as well as toothpaste and a toothbrush. 

Rubbia Ali - Postgraduate Diploma student in Mental Health: Cultural Psychology and Psychiatry, Wolfson Institute of Preventative Medicine, School of Medicine and Dentistry 

Stigma towards mental health is very prevalent within the South Asian and Muslim community, partly due to a lack of awareness regarding mental health conditions and how they may manifest in day-to-day life. A large proportion of the Muslim faith are also hesitant to access mainstream mental health support due to fear of being misunderstood and judged. Supported by academics in the Institute, Rubbia will create activity packs filled with mental health content relevant to the Muslim faith for distribution across east London. In addition, activities to help with anxiety will be included in the packs as well as signposting information to encourage individuals to access support. 

Giorgio Chianello - Lecturer in Chemistry, School of Biological and Chemical Sciences 

On Friday 18th, Saturday 19th and Sunday 20th June, local residents and families are invited to take part in fun and interactive chemistry activities. Staff and students based in the Chemistry department at Queen Mary University of London will be opening the laboratory on the Mile End Campus for residents to get hands-on with Chemistry - running demonstrations, experiments and activities for all ages. During each one-hour bookable slot, residents will experience chemistry in a working research laboratory, exploring chemical reactions and techniques used in crime scene investigations, airport security and laboratories around the world.  

Neha Ghelani - Undergraduate Medical student, School of Medicine and Dentistry 

Neha will be running a series of games and sports to provide activities for local children who live in the same block of flats in Stepney Green. These will be outdoor activities after school especially approaching summer to provide activities for young children so they can build up connections with their neighbours but also help keep them active. Activities will include obstacle courses, stuck in the mud, capture the flag and dodgeball.  

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