Last Saturday a small enthusiastic group of resident volunteers from Kings Crescent Estate in Hackney, their newly re-elected ward councillors and some of their children made the short journey to the Redmond Community Centre at Woodberry Down. This was intended as fact-finding mission as we seek to inspire residents to look at ways in which the proposed community centre to be built in the final stages of the regeneration might bring a new vibrant social and community life to the area. The Redmond Centre is managed by the Manor House Development Trust (MDHT) which has operated for almost 11 years at Woodberry Down.
The lovely temporary Vince Murrain Centre is under-used which is a shame and a cause for concern for the Council who have committed to reprovide the facility. It will be removed to make way for the construction of the next phase and replaced in the ground floor of one of the new buildings.
We had struggled to get volunteers to attend but were grateful that a few people showed interest and gave up their morning. The first thing you notice about the Redmond Centre when you enter is the high ceiling, the next is the mass of activities taking place and being advertised. The map on the floor reminds you that you are just less than ten minutes walk away from Kings Crescent, not in another world. The children quickly realised that the more interesting feature of the Centre is not the building but the linked yet separate play area. The parents quickly realised that they could relax and absorb the presentation and tour feeling their children were occupied and safe.
As ever, Simon Donovan (CEO of the Trust) spoke passionately about the model he has established to ensure that the Centre is viable and how the business relies not just on a paid team; but draws volunteers from corporate and student organisations. The things that impressed residents in the tour were the small and simple things: the community fridge which has given away 300kg of food; the recycled wood used for the ceiling and shelving; the communal growing area; and the open design of the entrance.
Lessons learnt from the visit are:
- Community is more complex than just an Estate
- Linking indoor and outdoor community space works really well
- Running a centre has to be treated like running a business
- The building is just a platform for developing and implementing ideas
We hope to develop more ideas through visiting other centres and talking to more social enterprises over the coming months . Although Kings Crescent’s Community Centre won’t have the back-drop of the reservoirs to frame their environment, there is already a playable street to which will be added high quality landscaping. Just add Community.
Last year, for almost 6 months we tried to appoint a young person based in Hackney as a paid intern to gain experience of housing regeneration and community work. As we love our work, we naïvely thought that this position would attract plenty of school leavers or graduates keen to get some practical skills to add to their CV.
Careers in housing seem to be reached almost entirely by accident, yet the range of skills that can be acquired and the diversity of areas you can work in means that there are very, very few boring jobs in the sector. The sector needs to do more to attract bright compassionate people to want to work in housing and community work.
Eventually we recruited Lydia through word of mouth and it was a successful six month internship on both sides. Lydia enjoyed the wide range of tasks we gave her and the chance to follow her own interests too. We appreciated having an extra pair of hands. She has gone on to be successfully accepted onto a masters degree in Urban Regeneration and follow her dream to work abroad. Read her blog of December 2017 to learn more about how she felt.
This year we are busier than ever and hope to give another enthusiastic graduate or school leaver the chance to find out how fascinating working with a community as they face major changes to their homes and community can be. Our advertisement is on the Graduate Talent Poll website and www.indeed.com. We also will accept CVs via e-mail to email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org
I’m coming to the end of a 6-month internship at Source Partnership, and I can’t quite believe how quickly the time has flown by. I know it’s such a cliché but I genuinely feel so lucky to have had this opportunity.
It hasn’t been your average 9-5 office work experience, photocopying and filing papers for other people, or constantly sat in front of a screen. My flatmate, after seeing me in my giant koala onesie arguing with an insurance broker on the phone for the third consecutive morning whilst he headed out to his tech company in his dry-cleaned suit, eventually asked me “what do you actually do?”. I still haven’t been able to answer his question properly.
Every single day has surprised me. From different estates, clients and colleagues with a range of backgrounds and expertise, the last six months have been unbelievably varied. Whilst my fellow graduates have spent their time training to be teachers or heading straight into the fiery world of international banking, I have been visiting people’s homes and neighbourhoods, and hearing residents’ stories. I have loved being part of these communities, even if it has just been temporarily.
I have seen more of London in the last six months, than in the other 3 years I spent at university here. Not only have I seen more of the different areas of London, but I have also been able to spend time with the diverse multi-cultural communities that make up this huge metropolis. My biggest take-away from this experience is that community is at the heart of housing and should be at the heart of planning, design and of course, regeneration, which has become such a dirty word in recent times, as these communities have often been systematically excluded or removed from this process.
I am fortunate to be finishing this placement with an even bigger passion for community work, housing, urban design and planning. I am so grateful to Source Partnership for supporting me in this exciting but daunting early stage of my career. I believe that anyone who works in design, architecture or planning or just cares about the world and the people who live in it should consider working in housing. To work in this sector is to be a part of something bigger than yourself, something exciting, and something fundamental to our well-being.
Maybe I’ve been around the block a few too many times (including refurbing it, knocking it down, rebuilding it and making it green). When I saw reports from the LSE being trailed as ‘RESIDENTS HAPPY’. Anyone who has worked on long term regen projects immediately asks which residents? With some projects taking over 10 years you are very often talking about completely different communities at the start and at the finish. I often work with community groups to help them become a ‘critical friend’ so here goes! The LSE report is very focussed on a particular estate and what they define as a specific model. I am sceptical about some of the interpretation of the findings and real wider application. As someone who has regularly worked with residents on 100% door knocks and making sure that we have met with all households I do question that the study is based on 50 independent surveys. However, I am a massive fan of the LSE and its studies of regeneration and in particular Anne Power and I think there are some clear messages to be taken from this report.
Anne Power is quoted as saying ‘(the scheme) shows that it is possible to rebuild a former council estate with most of the existing tenants in place. By providing local management and community resources, the landlord can help the community flourish’
In just one sentence a few key points have been identified:
- The landlord has to have as one of its aims of regeneration that the community flourishes. All too often little time or space is given to considering what this means. Who is the community now, what will happen to them and who will the community be when we are finished? Are not questions that are really formally addressed. Too much emphasis is placed on building costs and ASB stats as the drivers. These are just numbers!
- The need for well thought out community resources. All too often it’s a case of there was a community centre so we will just re-provide a bright new one it will be fab and have a mezzanine! So little thought is given to how it will run and survive, too much reliance on assumption of a ‘community trust’ in Business Plans or PDAs. The community changes over the life of a regeneration project so must the community offer. Please! No more white elephant centres, S106 get outs and small community groups scrabbling for survival. If you have a new estate, where is your new community resource model!
- One of the recurring things you hear from residents on estates that ‘need regenerating’ is it feels like things are being done to them. If you really want to regenerate an area how about regenerating the power balance. So much time is taken to involve resident’s in the planning and getting ‘sign off’ this needs to be developed into a longer term model of greater community control
So 3 things:
Have a worked vision for the community and demographics in regeneration.
Have your short/medium and longer term community resource model and methods for continually testing its validity.
Build in your plan for greater control, the community may change but you can still build the structures (ever heard of a TMO or EMB?).