The Mayor of London has lent his support to a new annual event for British Turks. Referring to his Turkish ancestry, Boris Johnson said he was “a proud descendant” and that “London Turkish Heritage Day will be a fantastic opportunity for all Londoners to marvel at the contributions that the Turkish-speaking communities have made to the capital”.
Enfield Civic Centre hosted the UK’s first Turkish Heritage Day on Monday 8thDecember, attended by local politicians, mayors from other London boroughs, senior Turkish and Turkish Cypriot diplomats, and members of the public. The evening included live performances of classical and contemporary Turkish songs by Hoş Seda and Djanan Turan, poetry recitals by Ünal Ünaydın and Hülya Özdemir, and a photography exhibition and UK Turkish Heritage book launch by Semra Eren-Nijhar.
The first Turks arrived in Britain in the seventeenth century. Numbers remained small until the 1950s and 1960s when a mass of Turkish Cypriots moved to the UK. Today, Enfield is the home of the largest concentration of British Turks in the country. Some 80,000 people in the north London borough – one in five citizens – originate from either Turkey or North Cyprus. Nearly half of its councillors are Turkish-speakers, including the current Mayor Councillor Ali Bakır, making it the ideal location to launch London’s inaugural Turkish Heritage Day.
Mayor Bakır opened the proceedings with a short welcoming speech, followed by talks from other dignitaries, including Oya Tuncalı, TRNC London Representative, Orcun Başaran, the Charges d’affairesfor the Turkish Embassy in London, and Atul Patel, a Trustee at the National Heritage Memorial Fund and Heritage Lottery Fund. MPs Nick de Bois, David Burrowes and Andy Love, and the Mayors of Haringey (Cllr. Kaushika Amin) and Southwark (Cllr Sunil Chopra), and the Speaker of Hackney (Cllr .Sharon Patrick) also attended, along with British Turkish councillors and community leaders from across London, and members of the general public.
During the evening, event presenter İpek Özerim read out messages of support from the Mayor of London and London MEP Syed Kamall, neither of whom were able to attend.
Boris Johnson, himself of Turkish heritage through his paternal great-grandfather Ali Kemal, said:
“As a proud descendant, it is my absolute pleasure to offer my support for the inaugural London Turkish Heritage Day on 8th December 2014.
“There is little doubt that this event will be a fantastic opportunity for all Londoners, especially those of Turkish heritage, to marvel at the contributions that the Turkish-speaking communities have made to the capital.
“As Mayor of London, I am committed to working with all of London’s communities to promote cohesion, and it is my hope that we can use London Turkish Heritage Day to create ever more integrated communities that are built on tolerance and trust.”
London Turkish Heritage Day was created by SUNCUT director Semra Eren-Nijhar and Enfield Cllr. Ahmet Karahasan, also of the Enfield Turkish Cypriot Association (ETCA). The new annual event aims to build on the incredible contribution and growth of the Turkish Community in London in recent years: over 75% of the UK’s 500,000 Turkish population now live in the British capital.
In their press statement, Eren-Nijhar and Karahasan said Turkish Heritage Day will, “commemorate, celebrate and inspire future generations about Turkish British Heritage and the important role that they have played and continue to play in creating dynamic and resilient UK communities.”
The evening included a unique exhibition spotlighting the great contribution Turks in Britain have made in the success of London’s economy, as well as its political and cultural life. It featured photographs from the Turkish London archives that captured the essence of the Turkish diaspora since the 1940s.
The event also paid tribute to a number of British Turks, both past and present, for their contributions to British society. Those recognised were:
- Mr. Mustafa Huseyin (nickname Japon Dayı), a retired business man
- Mr. Mustafa and Mrs. Omay Gencsoy, managed the Cyprus Turkish Cemiyet building in Soho from 1974-2013
- Prof Dr. Esin Orucu, academic in the area of Law, in her seventies
- Prof Dr. Belma Otus-Baskett, retired academic in the area of Literature
- Mrs. Nimet Bozkurt, retired banker serving the community
- Mr.Ibrahim Ibrahim, director of an international branding and retail design consultancy
- Dr. Emre Araci, music historian and composer
- Posthumous recognition Mr. Migirdic Baylik, civil engineer, served in the community more than forty years (1944- 2010)
- Posthumous recognition Mr.Kagan Guner, UNESCO artist – (1963- 2011)
Those aged 35 or under were named ‘Young ambassadors’ for Turkish Heritage Day:
- Dervish Konuralp, former World Champion and record holder, and 4-time Paralympian swimmer for Great Britain
- Ceylan Atik, Business Development and Sales Manager in medical research company
- Selin Kiazim, award-winning chef
- Huseyin Erbil, medical student