East London In Flux

The thing with most community engagement activities is that the people who put on the show couldn’t care less if you’re there or not. Sometimes the engagement exercises target seniors: When they don’t then the senior wannabee participant is more than invisible. This I have known for ages and corporate engagers be wise that many oldies are on your case.

East London in Flux presented by Fundamental Architectural Inclusion d.o.b. 2003 is different to all of the above and valuable to the ethos of community engagement. It’s a programme delivered with passion. Its participants are encouraged to join in and given the confidence to do so. And the sandwiches are nutritious, full, tasty and textured.

Today the room in the University of Birkbeck in the new Stratford E15  (aka USS hosted by community outreach officer Patrice Buddington) was bursting and a-buzzin’. We came from Stratford, Hackney, Forest Gate, Leyton, Romford, Mauritius and other places north of Watford. Imagine!

As for architecure, I can’t get over the fact that the Uni building is built on one of the meanest pot-holed car-parks of back in the day. Those days when the stealthiest of creeping car-park attendants would sneak out of the shadows: Those times when the parking machine swallowed pound coins then failed to deliver the ticket. Those were the days when you left the theatre production or pre Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012 pop-up workshops early so as not to fork out another load of coins.

The main attraction of this the first in a series of presentations and day-long workshops was the architect-guided walk around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Laid on were electric scooters, wheelchairs and taxis for the less mobile. The sun shone too. The morning session was all about how architects used any available terrain to construct the Olympic cities. Hitler’s Games came out top in the we- did- it poll not only because the construction/ideological team used media to the hilt when the concept of media as a corporate entity was not invented yet. Even the athletes’ village was great….bungalows. Ooh! give me one.

The heart-warming bit is how junior school kiddies are involved through Architectural in learning through model-making and discussion their role in the Legacy of the London 2012 Games.

Twas brillig.

Hanging words out to dry AGAIN

Another washing line; this time an indoor rotary one on the fourth floor of the new Birkbeck Uni campus in E15. About thirty of us go-getter curious types assembled for discussion and debate with architecture experts from Birkbeck, and the locally based Fundamental  Architectural Inclusion.

DSCF8501Any floor?

Who’d ever know that we meet let alone continue to do so in order to thrash out  our feelings and voice our observations about the London 2012 Legacy? The washing line was where we hung out our scribbled group offerings about regenerated areas. We had personal stories to tell about crime and heritage, history and economics. Not just sandwich-munching community peeps, we! Many of us were state pension age. We represented many walks of life and ethnicity. Well, it is Stratford.2013-09-01 11.26.43Colourful pineapple eh?

This was “East End in Flux” hosted by Leslie Topp and Nick Edwards and attended by subscribers to Up Your Street, mature university students and local east enders. It was extremely well organised as per and we were warmly welcomed. Cuppa tea? Yes please.

Learnt very little myself but enjoyed the experience. After lunch there was a (rescheduled)  walk around Stratford.

015UEL E15

I could not be asked. Those pavements have my carbon footprint echoing in them as I’ve walked the walk many times, pre Olympics and Paralympics, post Olympics and Paralympics and smack into the mystery of The Legacy.

Walthamstow, Hackney Wick, The International Quarter E15 and bake-house hot-house Hoxton were mentioned in corners of the room in terms of their arty incomers: Get me?

The major question was “Was the coming of The Olympics good for the east end?”

The responses were mixed veering towards guilty negative and enthusiastic positive. Mainly we defined ‘east end’ as Stratford and repeated how much of the rest of London apart from Hackney vehemently denied interest in The Games and hadn’t a googling clue about this Legacy thing. The transient nature of Stratford’s incoming residents was seen as an opportunity to shape the Borough to the needs of everyone and stop the outward movement of short-stayers. Participants were amazed at the new build rapid progress in Stratford and the sentimentalists wanted to save old buildings which at least give Stratford and Newham its identity.

All in all residents are not informed about the architectural so therefore permanent constructions in their neighbourhoods, less so those interested in the Legacy and living  outwith Newham. The Council it seems allows property developers to inform the neighbours. That’s crazy but usual as the same thing is happening in the regeneration programmes in Waltham Forest. Often people say “What’s that going to be then?” when a skyscraper hits the clouds. Even the local papers aren’t clear enough and more often what was a plan is reality overnight.

Rapid change can be depressing or rejuvenating to an invisible long-term east end council- tax payer, pensioner and resident. Meanwhile we all wait to see if the answer to the question is a resounding “Yes!” as we learn the language of the ‘engaged’, dip our feet into the many  pop-up restaurants, pop-up art galleries and pop-up theatres, look around for sister-cynics and repeat a positive mantra, “It’s good to talk”.

Up Your Street at The House Mill E3

An invited group of course members on the Visual Art Awareness undergraduate course at Birkbeck University operating out of Rosetta Arts in West Ham and youth from Legacy  programmes through the Fundamental Architectural Inclusion charity met in the chilly House Mill in Three Mills E3 to explore the routes of the Legacy from the Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012. Our slant was through architecture for communities and in order to move forward we needed to go back into archive film. Fabulous day; well-organised, welcoming, professional and everyone was valued and visible. We were intergenerational and quite able to share experiences and feel comfortable about airing our opinions.2013-02-23 10.09.02       2013-02-23 13.34.08

The Architecture Crew, a film-making researching team of Stratford youth had made a film prior to the building of the Games 2012 (2007) and we , seven years on, commented on it in terms of its portrayal of aspirations and successful community inclusion or otherwise. In the afternoon we analysed briefly the reasons for the building of the Keir Hardie Estate.

James Keir Hardie, 1856-1915James Keir Hardie, (1856-1915) was elected to Parliament in 1892 as the first – and at the time only – Labour MP, for West Ham South. He lost the seat in 1895 but he later became chairman of the Parliamentary Labour Party.

The Keir Hardie estate in Canning Town is named after him.

 

Lunch was great served up by Beverley, volunteer and ex Gamesmaker and she then gave us a tour of the House Mill built in 1776.  Brilliant and what an opportunity!2013-02-23 13.40.50Beverley Charters, Trustee and volunteer for the River Lea Tidal Mill Trust (RLTMT) showing us the ropes.