On any given normal overcast grey day you could be mistaken in thinking this square opposite is part of some dystopian nightmare. A massive Tesco that had the pleasure of being named ‘Britains worst building’ dominates the landscape begging people to come in at the expense of the vibrant local shop community, whilst a TV screen looms large over at one of the corners of the square beaming out BBC News nearly 24/7 to all the loyal subjects ensuring that even on your quiet stroll to work you can’t get away from that trusty BBC News team ensuring you know how to think.
But then once in a while we are blessed with sunshine; and that is when this square comes alive.
Sitting here observing the square like today is a reminder of how beautiful and accepting our multicultural society can be. In the square people from all creeds mix as one, the range of ethnicities as varied as the colours of the old Nepalese womens kahtas, a headscarf worn by them to symobolise purity and compassion.
Alongside these women as they spend the afternoon with family sitting and talking watching the world go by are a group of what looks like burly white European men drinking lager from their cans, an interesting dynamic, but one that doesn’t seem to bother each other. Black youths congregate joking and laughing with one another, whilst people sit around in huddles along the ledges or even spread out on the grass. Its a hive of activity. The variation of people here would put a rainbow to shame; from the lone person sitting collecting their thoughts, to the families with children from different backgrounds enjoying splashing in the water feature that runs down one side of the square, to the people just passing through on their way home becoming a fleeting part of the beautiful landscape.
Nothing is perfect. Woolwich where the square is located is a working class area with 35% of children living in child poverty and a reputation for being an area of high deprivation where there is an ethnic population of 41% and over 100 languages spoken. Sure there is also crime, and it would be a lie to suggest this square has never experienced a scuffle or two, but in a country where we have seen race crime rise by 41% since the EU referendum, watching this square and the general harmony that exists between the people who come here to relax no matter their background or personal circumstance is a wonderful sight that gives hope in an age where the media chooses to focus its lens on the more divisive aspects within society.
When the 1984-esque TV isn’t beaming BBC News it shows the football when there is a match on, during that time – as today and many others – the same people who sit here now are there cheering England on, united as one, because yes, we look and sound different, but we all call this our home, and looking over the square with all its differences , is one time where the ‘Great’ really is put into ‘Great Britain’.