Speaker of Hackney on fundraising and community connection

Posted by Kirsty Telford on 16th May 2024

This week we are celebrating a wonderful twelve months of fundraising and community connection, fostered by Councillor Anya Sizer, as she completes her role as the Speaker of Hackney.

We are so proud to have been chosen and work alongside our friends Stu at Hoxton Hall, and Jane and Mel at St Joseph’s Hospice, to benefit from Anya’s personal fundraising events and profile-raising opportunities in our home borough.

In this interview, Councillor Sizer shares what it has meant to her to hold the role of Speaker of Hackney, and to develop a rich and heartfelt relationship with her charities, their staff and beneficiaries. Read on to find out her favourite words and a cheeky Council secret!

What have you gained personally from your year as Speaker? So many things! But in terms of Hackney, a new understanding of how wonderful, varied and creative our borough is. In terms of me as a person, a deeper understanding of my own strengths and weaknesses, and having been pushed out of my comfort zone many times, a new sense of what leadership can look like.

What has surprised you about your time as Speaker of Hackney? Just how much is happening here in Hackney. There are so many organisations and individuals doing incredible work and we are surely the most diverse and creative place to live?!

‘How would I sum up my time as Speaker in three words? Wonderful, a Privilege and Adventure’

What is your favourite word and why? I think compassion is a wonderful word as it is so much stronger and decisive than people might initially think . It’s an action word and a much-needed antidote to some of the problems we see.  I do also love Hope, Fiscal, Cake (!), Discombobulated, Onomatopoeia and Home!

Why is it important to young people in Hackney that a place like Ministry of Stories exists? We can’t say ‘like’ Ministry of Stories as there is only one! How lucky are we to have such an incredible warm creative hub for local children? I know this not just from my work with you, but from my son who supports in the Saturday labs, and always comes home so amazed at what you achieve. I am constantly surprised and very grateful for your work, and even more grateful I get to stay involved with you as Ward Councillor for Hoxton East and Shoreditch.

What is your stand out memory from your time with Ministry of Stories? Your Speak Up is always such a moving, joy-filled event, and every time I come away so impressed at the level of drive and passion in our young people.

‘Ministry of Stories is always full of bright colours and smiles. I am more grateful that you exist than I can say.’

What was the most brave thing you’ve had to face and overcome as Speaker? I have learnt and am learning to not take everything to heart.

What are you most proud of? Giving it my all. I left my main job at the start of the year … and it feels like it has been the most varied, exciting, challenging and wonderful year possible.

Is there a cheeky secret you could share that you’ve discovered since being Speaker? That there may or may not be an entire biscuit drawer in the Speaker’s Parlour!

What will you do next? I have taken on the role of Democracy Lead with the think-tank Compassion in Politics and we will be working with other amazing groups to look at how to get more people involved and interested in politics, and how to change politics for the good of us all. I am also starting as Member Champion for Special Needs and Social and Emotional Mental Health in Hackney, a role very dear to my heart, and again I feel very lucky to be given.

What have you learnt about Hackney this year that you didn’t know before? Its the variety of people that I have got to meet this year that has been such an insight. I always knew Hackney had so many aspects to it, but this year has really let me see that first hand. I leave my role as Speaker more passionate about this wonderful borough than ever and more determined to keep playing my part.

‘I could not have asked for three more wonderful charities to work with this year. A huge thank you from me and you will always have my support, help and passion for the work that you do.’

Aside from her civic duties, Anya has delivered a jam-packed calendar of Cheese and Wine evenings and fancy dinners, to walks, runs and cycling, a mental health and entertainment showcase and quiz nights including our very own Brilliant Books Quiz at Ministry last week. As Speaker, Anya has raised almost £21,000 for her three charities and we are so grateful for her time, energy, positivity and courage to take on so many challenges and events to support us all. Thank you Anya.

We would like to take the chance to thank Councillor Sizer’s family – who have taken part in much of their own fundraising to support this year, plus Anya’s Consort, Bernadette Bramble, and Deputy Speaker (now Speaker of Hackney), Councillor Sheila Suso-Runge who have taken part in so many events.

The year has also seen an amazing turn-out in support from a wide range of Hackney Councillors and Speakers from across London, their families and friends, local people and organisations. We now know just how competitive (!) and kind you are, how you love cheese and laughter, and appreciate you giving your personal time and donations to help make this year a great success. Please continue to visit us at Ministry of Stories – our doors are always open.

And final huge thanks must also go out to Jane Ware, Civic Engagement Manager and event-organiser extraordinaire, who has worked tirelessly to keep us all on track, organised and filled the calendar with events, filled the events with guests, and filled the glasses of the guests with their favourite tipples. What a year it has been – thank you Jane!


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