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.
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.Colourful 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.
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”.