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Sarah Lee interview: “There are clearly huge challenges in the borough at the moment”

15 December 2020

Sarah Lee is a local resident and has been working with the Islington-based international law firm Slaughter and May for over 27. She was recently appointed a Cripplegate governor and today she shares with us some insights about her motivations to apply, her background and what she hopes she can bring into the organisation. 


Can you tell us a little bit about yourself?  

I've been living in Islington for the last 35 years, so I've lived here for a long time. And I also work in Islington, just on the fringes of the city down by the Barbican. I have raised and brought up two children in Islington and we very much feel like Londoners now, although I'm originally from Manchester.  

Sarah Lee during the Zoom interview
Sarah Lee during the Zoom interview

Why did you decide to become a governor, what did you think that you could bring into the foundation? 

I've been a lawyer for the last 30 years and I'm retiring from being a full-time lawyer soon. So looking forward, I knew I'd have a bit more time on my hands and I really wanted to use some of the skills and experiences that I've developed over my time professionally to see how I might give back to the community that I live and work in. Cripplegate really appealed to me because of the huge numbers of projects that it helps fund and works with within the borough.  

I've always been very interested in how organisations work from a diversity perspective and how can they make sure that they are open to everybody from all sorts of different backgrounds.

Is there any piece of work or project in particular that you’re really looking forward to start working in? 

I'm hoping that as a governor I can get involved in the Islington Giving part of the work that Cripplegate Foundation does. So far, I've been learning more about how Islington Giving works and the partners that it works with, but also learning about some of the projects that it funds. I've been really interested in the breadth of projects that both Islington Giving and Cripplegate as a whole funds – from theatre groups to mental health organisations, to work on people's doorsteps. The real breadth of the work and really trying to get in where people have great need, that's what I've been interested and impressed by so far. 

As a Partner at Slaughter and May, you’ve had responsibility for and great interest in Diversity and Inclusion. What are your thoughts around the DEI work that we have just started doing as an organisation? 

As I said I was brought up in Manchester. My father's Chinese and my mother's white British, and I've always been interested in diversity. And in my work, in the legal profession, when I started there many years ago, it was very much a male dominated profession. Throughout my career, I've been something which has been quite different. I've always been very interested in how organisations work from a diversity perspective and how can they make sure that they are open to everybody from all sorts of different backgrounds. So I have a real interest in how can we make sure that there are opportunities for everybody out there, how can we make them accessible and how can we make sure that people's skills and talents are really exploited. I'm really interested in the work that the Cripplegate Foundation does, because I know it has a great focus on making sure that everybody within the community is empowered to succeed. 

Which do you think is or are the biggest challenges in the sector at the moment?  

There are clearly huge challenges in the borough at the moment and the whole pandemic, and the experience of that, is just going to emphasise where the real problems are. Issues like food poverty, people losing their jobs...The need is just so great completely across the borough. And all of those factors then aggravate things like mental health. The challenges are huge and the pandemic has just emphasised those challenges and made the work that the foundation does even more important. 

And lastly, what is your favorite thing about the borough?  

My favorite thing about the borough is the canal and walking along the canal. If you walk from The Angel end, along up towards Victoria Park, there's such a diversity of architecture, of housing, you see so many different people using the canal, from young families to people having a drink, cyclists and joggers go by and you hear lots of different languages spoken... And I think it just really demonstrates the diversity of the borough.