Photo: Stella Creasy
It is the first spring like day in Walthamstow and Stella Creasy is in the midst of pre election preparations. Whilst waiting for Creasy to meet me at the Citizen’s Advice Bureau, it hit home just how much of her time and energy is invested in the local community. Nearly all the people waiting alongside me, from mothers craving their early morning caffeine fix to flustered property owners, were here to talk with Creasy about one issue or another. But this is just an average day in the life of Walthamstow’s Labour MP.
Even when faced with uncomfortable questions, Creasy does not lose her cool. If there is one issue on resident’s minds, the chances are it has something to do with affordable housing. It is no secret that since Walthamstow has become the latest buzzword for media moguls, landlords have been forcing residents to dig deeper into their pockets. “The truth of the matter is there are not enough houses being built.” explains Creasy. “I would like to see more housing co-ops which will allow people to buy a home with someone else which in turn helps investment in the local area.” Whilst this idealistic view is encouraging, it is hard not to ignore the facts in front of us. House prices have risen 28% in the last year whilst Waltham Forest still remains the 15th most deprived borough nationally out of 326. This level of disparity is hard to ignore and it is surely, unsustainable in the long run.
This rapid rise in house prices is naturally posing a new set of problems for Creasy. “Walthamstow has a strong community but now it is such a desirable area, we have a churn of people who are all moving in, each with their own ideals of what Walthamstow should be” says Creasy sharply, as if it is an issue constantly playing on her mind. For Stella Creasy, Wathamstow is a rough diamond. It is home to a fantastic array of culture and lifestyle but her aim is to promote all aspects of life in E17 showing that there is more to life than the hipster utopia of Orford Road with its quinoa eating, craft beer drinking locals. With 62% of the population from minority ethnic backgrounds, it is a tough task, but Creasy’s acerbic wit and solid political knowledge allow her to slice through any tension that may be present amongst residents.
It is not hard to feel intimidated by Creasy. She is a daunting combination of old world elegance, with her hair perfectly pinned back, nails neatly manicured, and dazzling intellect. At 38, she has not only become MP for Walthamstow but she has also taken action against Twitter trolls and pay day loan companies, each time, causing a media frenzy. And yet, on the whole, Stella Creasy isn’t Walthamstow’s version of the ice queen. In fact, far from it. Only five minutes into the meeting she is cracking jokes and commenting on the latest trends in menswear. She has a natural ability to put people at ease which some people say, is her secret to success as Walthastow’s MP.
Originating from Sutton Coldfield, Stella is the daughter of Philip and Corinna Creasy, Cambridge graduates and active labour party members. Academic ability was passed down to Stella who attended Colchester County High School for Girls before going on to study Social and Political sciences at Magdalene College Cambridge. Creasy then went on to gain a masters qualification from London School of Economics and a PHD from University of London in Social Psychology before beginning her career in politics.
Creasy has experienced first hand the changing reputation of Walthamstow. It is well known that five years ago, Walthamstow was just a name at the end of the Victoria line however due to the hard work put in by Creasy and other individuals, it has now flourished into a sought after postcode for first time buyers. Projects such as ‘7days4Stow‘ and ‘SaveEMD Cinema‘ have acted as a catalyst for change within the community. To some Stella is just piggybacking on the rising of house prices and other forms of gentrification, however, it is her unwavering pride and belief in Walthamstow that is the reason so many people support her. On speaking of neighbouring Hackney’s reputation for artistic culture, Creasy is very quick to voice her opinion. “Walthamstow does it better. I call it ‘Gods Own Country’ because of the great mix of culture. Dalston, Shoreditch and the surrounding areas just cannot compete.” Whilst once being home to Grayson Perry, Walthamstow is now a creative hotspot with a wave of artists working to put E17 on the map through the annual ‘E17 Art Trail‘.
“Stella Creasy characterises modern political reform, using social media tools to effectively tackle key issues affecting local people” explains Zak Timol, a 27 year old Walthamstow born resident. Stella Creasy is a force of nature and with over 53 thousand followers on Twitter alone, it is clear that she has earned the trust and support of locals regardless of political agenda. Business owner and neighbour to Stella, Debbie Bliss, also shares her praise. “Oh she has been really good! When we were looking for a premises, I emailed her and she was really lovely and put me onto the council, introducing me to the right person straight away.”
Walthamstow has now under gone a major general election, however, the results couldn’t have been better for Creasy. 28,779 people came out to support her, casting their vote in favour of all the hard work she has done for locals. She increased her vote share by 17.01% and now has a majority of 23,195, an unprecedented figure which has risen by 13,717 since the last election. This landslide victory is brilliant news for Walthamstow however it doesn’t mean that Stella Creasy can relax any time soon. Immediately after her victorious success, she was busy sending emails and working with locals to minimise the disturbance caused by the English Defence League protest in Walthamstow, proving that there is work to be done and that she is the woman for the job. Regardless of political standing, there is no denying that Stella Creasy is creating positive change within the area and with another 5 years in office, we can expect to see many more exciting changes coming our way.
To keep updated with Stella, follow her on Twitter
Photos: Stella Creasy
Words: Grace Molan