Sabrina Francis at the mayoral civic function
THE wait may have been the longest ever but Camden’s mayor finally managed to have a civic function on Thursday to mark her year as the borough’s first citizen.
Normally held in May and in the council chamber, the party for Sabrina Francis was instead shifted to the London Irish Centre for an autumn event.
The coronavirus pandemic had already delayed Cllr Francis from taking office by 12 months, with her predecessor Maryam Eslamdoust having two years as mayor.
Cllr Francis, a former Camden School for Girls pupil who works in social media, has already made history by becoming the borough’s first black woman to be elected to the role.
It is traditional for mayors in Camden to use the position to help fundraise for their chosen good cause and from the stage, she confirmed that she would be supporting Gingerbread, a Camden-based charity which helps single parents.
“The long gap made preparing this speech a little bit difficult,” Cllr Francis said, before reminding the room of one of prime minister Boris Johnson’s old newspaper columns.
“I was thinking about opening with something topical and maybe mention how children of single parent families had been branded as ‘ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate’ by someone who probably should know better and is probably not in a position to throw stones about family dynamics – but I’ve moved on.”
Prime Minister Boris Johnson once described children of single parent families as “ill-raised, ignorant, aggressive and illegitimate”
Cllr Francis reflected on her time at primary school at Brecknock.
“The events that stand out for me would always be the international evenings. In a borough like Camden with its diverse population, these events were a chance to see, smell and taste what other people got to enjoy at home,” she said.
“My mum was always roped into making hundreds of portions of Caribbean fried fish and it always sold out first and, for me, seeing her be able to pass on a bit of herself and our life at home was an inspiration to me.
“It shows you don’t have to hide who you are but you can use your uniqueness to benefit other people.”
Cllr Francis added: “So in the spirit of not hiding who I am: I stand before you as a well-raised child of a single-parent family and I’m hoping that this year I’ll be able to make things a little bit better for some families that are having a hard time.”
She then reeled off statistics relating to homes with one parent.
“Fifty-four per cent of Londoners living in single parent families live in poverty; 49 per cent are reported to have taken on more debt due to Covid; 56 per cent of single parents have gone without food in order to make debt repayments,” the mayor told the reception.
“We know that singleparent families can be formed due to divorce, bereavement or choice – this isn’t about handouts to feckless mothers. In fact most, parents are in work and doing their best in challenging circumstances.”
Gingerbread has been based in Kentish Town for 50 years, but works across the country to help single-parent families.
You can help the mayor’s fundraiser at: www.justgiving.com/fundraising/mayor-camden1