I've decided to believe in the essential goodness of humankind. No I haven't been drinking, unless you count the glass of wine I sipped at the 2008 Hackney Homes Active Resident Awards dinner on Wednesday night. It was there that my faith in the species was restored. You know Hackney Homes: it's the "arms length management company" that manages and maintains the borough's council housing. Not everyone approves of ALMOs and, along with some real strengths, the Audit Commission found room for improvement in ours when it inspected it last year. But it seems to be on an upward curve - the expectation is that its rating will soon increase from one star out of three to two - and if the commitment and goodwill on display in the Town Hall Assembly Hall was anything to go by, the prospects for Hackney Homes and those it serves are good.
There were three categories of award: Young Resident, Resident Group and Resident. The first two were won by Ben Woodley and Jammie Dickens from Hawksley Court estate in Stoke Newington and the third by husband and wife team Jill and Vince Murrain from the Kings Crescent Estate near Finsbury Park. Runners-up in each category stepped up for prizes too, with the exception of elderly Claptonian Ron Devoti who has become very poorly recently. Though present, he was unable to step up to the podium. So after paying him a special tribute, Hackney Homes chair Rupert Tyson went down to Ron's table and embraced him, to a standing ovation from the other guests. Sneery journo I may be, but this was a very moving moment in an altogether stirring evening.
Other highlights were a farewell speech by now former Councillor Jamie Carswell, who's off to Tower Hamlets (and will, I was assured, be greatly missed) and a very funny one by youth worker and former boxer James Cook who, you may recall, recently received an MBE for his work in the Pedro Youth Centre. I met and spoke to some very good and generous people. Trudging home at around 10.00, I had the usual encounters with "saved" street evangelists and beggars and, slightly surreally, a couple of blokes in reflective jackets up to their necks in a hole in the pavement next to St John's churchyard: small reminders that this can be a sad and discomfiting place to live. But the earlier part of the evening had been a warm reminder that, at it's best, it is truly beautiful.