Parks to Farms: Urban Migration and Community Development in Tower Hamlets and Thorncliffe Park

January 29, 2015

Thorncliffe ParkNeighbourhoods like Tower Hamlets (London) and Thorncliffe Park (Toronto) have become destinations of choice and “arrival cities” for successive waves of urban migrants. Join us online to learn how community-led initiatives organized by local residents are rolling out the welcome mat, reducing barriers to participation, and empowering newcomers to help build a vibrant sense of community. This webinar is a live event in the Arrival City edition of the City Builder Book Club, and is brought to you by Cities of Migration and the Centre for City Ecology.

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Webinar Video


Featured Good Ideas

  • In Tower Hamlets, London (UK), the Spitalfields City Farm runs the Coriander Club, a gardening club that provides local elderly Bangladeshi migrant women, at risk of social exclusion, with a space to socialize, exercise, grow Bengali vegetables, and promote sustainable living in the inner city.
  • In Thorncliffe Park, Toronto (CA), a local women’s collective is transforming public space into a place for community participation, networking for work and civic engagement. The Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee (TPWC) has facilitated an active role for women and local residents in one of Toronto’s most diverse and densely-populated neighbourhoods.


Sabina AliSabina Ali, Chair, Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee (Toronto, Canada)

Sabina Ali is the chair and one of the founding members of Thorncliffe Park Women’s Committee, a group of local residents who came together with a vision of transforming their public space in to a place that builds and enriches the community and their neighbourhood. She has been instrumental in revitalizing the local park and creating a healthy, engaged and inclusive community. She is engaged in empowering and building the capacity within the residents, especially women and connecting the community with the rest of Toronto.

She is the recipient of Elizabeth Coke award for excellence in leadership in 2011. She sits on various committees like Evergreen Brick Work’s Neighbourhood Engagement Committee, Thorncliffe Park Citizenship Ceremony Committee, Neighbours Night out Committee, ACCESS Community Capital Fund. She is also the recipient of 2014 Jane Jacobs Prize for her work in transforming the city through innovative thinking, community development and from the looks of it, passion, driving hard work. Recently she received a Phenomenal Woman award from Centre for Community Learning and Development.

Mhairi Weir smMhairi Weir, Manager, Spitalfields City Farm (London, United Kingdom)

Mhairi A Weir has been the Manager of the Spitalfields City Farm for 6 years. Community development and engagement is something that Mhairi is particularly passionate about, and she has been a volunteer throughout her life with a variety of projects. At Spitalfields, Mhairi works with a very diverse community and uses the environment to bring people together in a safe, welcoming and creative space.

She studied Philosophy at Edinburgh University as a mature student in 1990 – 93 and took on a job within the Voluntary Sector at a Drug and Alcohol Project in Edinburgh (Trainspotting times). From then she took over managing a Community Centre on the outskirts of Edinburgh and went onto her Postgraduate Diploma in Community Development and Learning at Dundee University. She also managed a Befriending Project for people with poor mental and physical health and again all within the Voluntary Sector.

The City Builder Book Club

The City Builder Book Club is an online reading of Doug Saunders’ Arrival City in January 2015, inviting urbanists, migration experts, practitioners, and advocates from across the world to join a guided reading and global discussion of the book. The free, online book club will lead readers through Arrival City with weekly blog posts by international contributors, bi-weekly interactive activities and events, and lively online dialogues.

Follow us on Twitter @CityBuilderBook and join the conversation with the hashtags #ArrivalCity and #CityBuilders.


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