Stay Home? They wanted to…

As England enters a third lockdown where all people are ordered to “stay at home,” at Spectacle we are reminded of a community in Clapham Old Town, Lambeth SW4 that was told to “get out” of their homes.

In Rectory Gardens, there lived a group of creative and industrious people. As young artists and divergent thinkers they turned a derelict bombed out row of uninhabitable houses into a flourishing artistic community. For forty years they lived in a housing backwater largely unaffected by social housing policies, despite sporadic attempts by the council to “formalise” the street. They created a housing cooperative, until Lambeth, the ‘cooperative Council’ began taking their “million pound” houses from under their feet. The community that now included the vulnerable, elderly, and unwell, was broken up and dispersed. 

A Tragedy in the Commons 

The street circa 1980

Rectory Gardens (RG) is a L shaped Victorian pedestrian street in Clapham Old Town SW4 that was badly damaged by bombing during WW2. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the decimated houses attracted a group of squatters who saw the opportunity to create a utopia. This motley crew of characters with their own ideologies, housing needs, and reasons for living outside of the norm, formed a collective community which lived in relative harmony for four decades.  

Rectory Gardens circa 1980

By the 1980s these squatters had revitalized the houses, and formed a housing cooperative. Rectory Gardens offered a home for all kinds of artists, free-thinkers, draft dodgers, and other socially liminal characters. Through the 80 and 90s, it remained a diverse community at the epicentre of a flourishing arts scene.

Squatters clear rubble, circa 1960

The street was host to an industrious community of artists, musicians, poets and unconventional ‘free thinkers’ who found a cheap way of living while developing their creative endeavors. It became a hub of cultural activities initiating art studios and cafes that brought life to the area. Spectacle interviewed both Vivienne Westwood and Maggi Hambling about the value of Rectory Gardens’s cultural contributions.

Bombed out windows, circa 1960

Residents of this dynamic community were the initiators of much that made the area distinct and attractive, the skate park and cafe on clapham common, Cafe des Artistes, Fungus Mungus, Voltaire Studios, bric-a-brac shops, rehearsal studios, artisan crafts and pool of skilled creative labour. The street itself had a public garden that served as a safe play area in the day and a performance and social space in the evening.

As with any tragedy, their success was key to their end as well. The artistic growth contributed to the popularity of the neighborhood and ultimately its subsequent gentrification. The council had its eyes on the properties, and though the residents tried to work with the council to legalize their living arrangement the deal fell through. The residents were recently evicted by Lambeth Council, who sold the houses to a developer on the private market.

Evicting the community was devistating for the mental health and well-being of many of these elderly and vulnerable residents. They lost not only their homes but their community and support networks. Many struggled to live away from their home of forty years, some died or were sectioned. Housing is integral to well-being, a point overlooked by this profit driven housing department.

Spectacle at Rectory Gardens

In the spring of 2014 Spectacle was contacted by the residents of Rectory Gardens. They wanted to record the final months of their squat-turned housing-cooperative. Rectory Gardens had been a lively arts community for over forty years, but growing conflict with the local council left the residents desperately fighting to avoid eviction, something that perhaps some media advocacy and intervention could assist them with, they believed.

Spectacle begins filming at Rectory Gardens in 2014

During our preliminary engagement with Rectory Gardens, Spectacle offered training to any residents who were interested in filming techniques. Spectacle conducted workshops where participants learned camera techniques, collected peers’ stories, and collectively discussed the footage and ways to continue the production process. The production process was dictated by the participants themselves, and they shaped the narrative scope by inviting ex-residents to contribute with their memories. This work developed into an archive of oral histories of the street. 

Peers interview eachother and collect an oral history of the street

The production has continued for over six years, far longer than the initial few months originally envisioned. Together, Spectacle and Rectory Gardens residents have collected over 150 hours of footage including: long interviews with residents; key events on the street; residents resisting evictions; historic footage filmed by residents during the 90s; and residents in their new flats, reflecting on living away from their community where they lived for decades.

Post evictions, the street is home to wealthier residents

During Spectacle’s engagement, RG has been dismantled through evictions and relocations, and the residents have been scattered to various and disparate areas of the borough. The street, on the other hand, has been transformed to make way for the arrival of new wealthy tenants. 

Framing the Street 

Spectacle’s video archive of Rectory Gardens brings out many topical themes and offers inspiration for the post-Covid City through an examination of the past. Rectory Gardens is a portrait of forty years of resistance to the government housing policies. 

The houses themselves were initially built as philanthropic poor-quality Victorian housing for low-income workers. After
Rectory Gardens was bombed and left derelict post WW2, it provided a solution for postwar homelessness through squatting. It offered fertile ground for experimenting with alternative ways of living, resisted the “slum clearance” in the 1970s, Thatcherism, and the sale of social housing in the ‘80s. Their methods and ideologies represent a range of approaches including anarcho individualism, anarcho-syndicalism, socialism, capitalism of small artisanal businesses looking for cheap space, and the daily necessity of the socially excluded and the legally marginalised. 

The beautiful rennovation by one of the co-operative residents, taken just before eviction

By the 2000s, the constant push to turn London’s affordable housing into profit, was nibbling at the edges of Rectory Gardens as well. The insidious forces of “regeneration” and contemporary privatised gentrification have been endemic in London where, even by global standards, the commodification of real estate is extreme. Through eviction and rehousing the community was broken up, and the squatters were replaced with live-in guardians, the modern sanitised, privatised version of squatting.

It’s important to note that not all parts of London have been equally gentrified, and Lambeth Council, where Rectory Gardens is located, was famous for its tolerance of alternative housing organisations and leftist leanings. They referred to themselves as ‘the cooperative council’ and ‘Red Ted’ Knight and his ‘Socialist Republic of Lambeth’ were the bete-noir anti hero of the tabloids. There were many houses like Rectory Gardens which were uninhabitable after the war, and Lambeth had few resources to deal with them. Squatters quickly took advantage of the council’s disinterest and moved into these spaces. Lambeth greatly benefited from the labour of these groups, and many cooperatives were able to legalise their situation, but RG was not.

The Project Now

The filming part of this project has come to a close, and we are looking for partners in the next phase – telling the story of what has disappeared. 

We are searching for funding and partners to assist in bringing the dispersed community together again for an online participatory editing process. The process will let the former residents of Rectory Gardens tell their story, by sifting through the 150 hours of footage and drawing out narratives and themes to share with a wider audience.

Searching for Partners for Rectory Gardens Online Participatory Video Project

If you are interested in exploring collaborations or can suggest potential funding streams please get in contact. We welcome academic researchers, activists, social historians, and all others. 

Please get in touch with projects@spectacle.co.uk or subscribe for more information.

For updates check our other blogs.

This project is relevant to: well-being, health, housing, social housing, urbanism, urban planning, human geography, sociology, participatory methods, co-creatation, co-authorship, knowlege sharing, community filmmaking, and participatory film.

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Remote Participatory Workshop in Rostock, Germany

Does the Truth Still Lie in Rostock?

In August 2020, in collaboration with the Rostock based group Lichtenhagen im Gedächtnis , Spectacle developed and ran an archive-based two-day participatory workshop. This project is part of the run up to the 30th anniversary of the Rostock Pogrom in 1992.

The project’s events, which were held online due to the pandemic, included a public premier of a new fully German version of ‘The Truth Lies in Rostock’. The screening was followed by a Q&A with director Mark Saunders, which focused on the participatory production process through which the film was created. For more about the process or the archive footage, see the bottom of this post.

This screening also launched a unique workshop designed to connect Rostock’s past, present, and future.

The Truth Lies in Rostock

This 1993 film depicts the events which occurred in August 1992, at the Lichtenhagen estate in Rostock, in the former East Germany. Over the course of three nights, a fascist crowd assembled. The police withdrew as the mob petrol bombed a refugee centre and the home of Vietnamese guest workers while 3000 spectators stood by and clapped. 

The film uses material filmed from inside the attacked houses and interviews with anti-fascists, the Vietnamese guest workers, police, bureaucrats, neo-nazis and residents. Through these perspectives, a story of political collusion and fear unfolds. 

Thirty years later the question has become, how can the memory of the ‘Lichtenhagen Pogrom’ help fight new waves of fascism in Germany? 

Participatory Video Workshop

This two-day participatory video workshop offered the chance for young adults from Rostock to dig into the film’s questions about the nature of fascism, racism, and the roles and responsibilities of the city, state, and federal governments. 

By working with archive footage and filming a live commemorative demonstration, the workshop was designed to bridge the past and present issues of racism and anti-racism in Rostock. The workshop’s second aim was to offer new skills in media and filmmaking to these young adults. 

The workshop launched the weekend of August 20th. A group of young Rostockers were split in two groups, one working with archive footage, and one filming the live demonstration.

Before the workshop began, Spectacle digitized a portion of our extensive archive footage from 1992. The material selected was of the anti-nazi demonstration that followed the pogrom. This group worked with Spectacle to edit a new short film from the material. 

You can see their short film here: Demonstration 1992

Meanwhile, the rest of the participants went as a small group to film an event which echoed the archive material – the Lichtenhagen Commemorative Bicycle Demonstration. This group of participants learned about filming techniques and edited footage from the demonstration into a short film which focused on the landmarks which have been built to commemorate the events thirty years before. 

You can view their final short film here: Demonstration 2020

The Aims of the Project  

  • Provide a safe space for reflection about the events in Lichtenhagen, specifically for different groupings that were involved in the events at the time. This includes, but is not limited to the Vietnamese community in Rostock, some of whom had to fear for their lives and lost their homes in the events, and Rostock residents, some of whom were appalled at the unfolding events and other who were cheering at, or maybe even participating in the attacks.
  • Provide skills training in workshops, teaching participants how to use video cameras, record sound, and conduct interviews.
  • Potentially encouraging dialogue between diverse groups and contributing to a more sustainable community through a process of reconciliation.
  • Preserving the oral history of the 1992 events by creating Zeitzeugen (witness/bystander) documentation for future generations, through the production of a series of films including original as well as new footage. These footage shot in these workshops will be made available online as well as on DVD and can be used to educate younger generations.

The Archive 

Spectacle has an extensive archive of footage from Rostock between 1991-93. The archive grew out of a programme of participatory video workshops run by Spectacle. After the unification of Germany, all the East German media outlets were taken over or replaced with Western media. Spectacle’s series of open workshops were designed to establish an independent, community-based media group in Rostock and to document the effects of unification on the city.

All participants in the workshops were beginners, with little experience in photography or filmmaking. The practical exercises concentrated on how the unification was changing the physical urban landscape. At the close of the first sessions, each participant was interviewed about their experiences as well as their hopes and fears of “Die Wende” the unification of Germany.

One of the objectives of the workshops was to establish a community media group to that end we formed the Jako Media Co-op. Just six months later Jako E.V. and Spectacle would rejoin to make ‘The Truth Lies in Rostock’.

The production process created over 200 hours of footage that did not appear in the final edit of the film. These scenes of daily life in 1991-1993 have become an historic archive of the city at that volatile time. The aim of the 2020 project was to re-work and revisit this archive together with a new generation of Rostockers who were not even born at the time of the pogrom.

Watch The Films

Demonstration 2020
Demonstration 1992

Read past blogs about Spectacle’s Rostock projects here.

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Learn Video Online

PROJECT RESEARCH, PROMOTION, DOCUMENTATION, DISSEMINATION, OUTREACH

Online Video Training
  • Are you a researcher or activist wanting to learn about filmmaking?
  • Do you need video to document your project or as an outreach tool?
  • Do you want to use video-making to engage your stakeholders online?
  • Does your organisation want to offer online video training to your network?

Spectacle is an award-winning independent media company that specialises in documentary, community-led investigative journalism, and participatory media.Online video training

We have been leaders in Participatory Video (PV) practice and community engagement for more than thirty years, and offer training and workshops in every aspect of digital filmmaking.

We are offering affordable, accessible, and enjoyable film, media, and video training. No prior knowledge needed! Learn what you really need to know to make quality videos.

Previous Clients
Spectacle’s clients include The Council of Europe, Joseph Rowntree Foundation, Frantz Fanon Foundation, Wellcome Trust, Arts Council of England, and the Howard League.

Spectacle has delivered successful training workshops for numerous educational organisations, NGOs, and private companies including Cambridge University Press, Cambridge Anthropology Department, Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, Science and Technology Facilities Council, Edinburgh University, Birkbeck College, UCL, LSE, as well as dozens of social researchers, journalists, scholars, and video marketers who have found our methods engaging and inspiring.

Over the last 9 months we have run online training courses and workshops for a wide range of clients, including the UK’s Social Research Association, University of Zurich, and the Lichtenhagen Rostock Archive. 

Working with researchers at LSE we have developed a groundbreaking remote Participatory Video (PV) online method to produce a collaborative documentary with a group of migrant women in Medellin, Colombia. 

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Remote Participatory Video in Medellin, Colombia

Spectacle has been at the forefront of Participatory Video (PV) practice and community engagement for more than thirty years. We continue to innovate and during the last 9 months we have developed a model for delivering Participatory Video workshops remotely.

Reinventada, a participatory video project for LSE

The Project

Spectacle is currently a partner in a research project developing a groundbreaking remote PV method. The research project Reinventada is funded by the London School of Economics (LSE) Knowledge Exchange and Impact Fund (KEI). It investigates the condition of displaced and migrant women, especially mothers and heads of household, living in disadvantaged neighbourhoods of Medellin (Colombia).

The Garcia sisters, Celmira and Elicenia

The research was initially planned to produce a participatory documentary on women’s ‘right to the city’ in Medellin. However, as soon as the pandemic crisis exploded, being well aware that women are amongst the most affected groups of people during emergencies and disasters, we were able to create a remote participatory project that investigates the impact of COVID-19 on participants’ everyday lives in poorer areas of the city. 

The Beginning

Started in May 2020, the project was originally planned to be conducted face-to-face, but was forced online due to the pandemic. It is led by dr. Sonja Marzi, the Principal Investigator from the Department of Methodology at LSE, as well as supported on the ground by two Colombian partners: Maria Fernanda Carrillo, a sociologist and filmmaker, and Lina Maria Zuluaga, anthropologist.

Dr. Sonja Marzi, Principal Investigator of the project

The aim of this research project is to create a documentary filmed and edited by the women themselves to depict their daily lives during the pandemic. 

Online Participatory Video

We began initially by training the participants on how to best use web platforms and available technology. We set up weekly ‘Zoom’ meetings that served as an online space for workshops on filming techniques and how to use their smartphones to capture high quality video. Zoom meetings became the workshop space where all production and editorial decisions were discussed and made in consensus. The production meetings are chaired by participants on a rotating basis. We discussed film content, planned shoots, reviewed and critiqued the footage together, and collaborated on editing the final documentary.

Demetria, chairing a meeting

The groundbreaking project has successfully adapted Spectacle’s Participatory Video methods and techniques to an online environment. We are in the editing phase and the documentary film will be published by the end of 2020. 

Collaborative editing process

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The story of Shaker Aamer and Guantanamo

The prolonged campaign for the release of Battersea resident Shaker Aamer, a Guantanamo Bay military prison inmate, resulted in success. It is now five years to the day since he was released from prison after serving 13 years without charge or trial. We have followed the case of Shaker Aamer in detail since the completion of Outside The Law: Stories from Guantanamo in 2009 up to his arrival at Biggin Hill airport on 31st October 2015. Here are all our Guantanamo campaign videos which chronicle the series of events surrounding this story of injustice.

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

Documentary telling the story of Guantánamo, extraordinary rendition and secret prisons, focusing on the stories of three prisoners, Shaker Aamer, Binyam Mohamed and Omar Deghayes.

It examines how the Bush administration turned its back on domestic and international laws, rounding up prisoners in Afghanistan and Pakistan without adequate screening (and often for large bounty payments), and why some of these men may have been in Afghanistan or Pakistan for reasons unconnected with militancy or terrorism; for example as missionaries or humanitarian aid workers. Focusing on the stories of three particular prisoners — Shaker Aamer (still detained. November 2009), Binyam Mohamed (released, February 2009) and Omar Deghayes (released, December 2007).

The documentary provides a powerful rebuke to those who believe that Guantánamo holds “the worst of the worst” and that the Bush administration was justified in responding to the terrorist attacks of September 11, 2001 by holding men neither as prisoners of war, protected by the Geneva Conventions, nor as criminal suspects with habeas corpus rights, but as “illegal enemy combatants” with no rights whatsoever.

The film contains interviews with former prisoners (Moazzam Begg and, in his first major interview, Omar Deghayes) lawyers for the prisoners (Clive Stafford Smith in the UK and Tom Wilner in the US), and journalist and author Andy Worthington, and also includes appearances from Guantánamo’s former Muslim chaplain James Yee, a London-based Imam, and the British human rights lawyer Gareth Peirce.

“Outside the Law is a powerful film that has helped ensure that Guantánamo and the men unlawfully held there have not been forgotten” – Kate Allen , director Amnesty International UK

February 2012 – Tuesday 14th marked 10th anniversary of Shaker’s detention, which was marked in England by a series of protests, and in Guantanamo by a hunger strike.

Shaker Aamer: a decade of injustice

Also available in Spanish here

Spectacle has made this short film about Shaker Aamer to mark the 10th anniversary of his incarceration.

Shaker Aamer was one of the 171 men held in detention in Guantanamo Bay. Despite never having had a trial, having been approved for release twice, and a growing number of people from all walks of life campaigning for him, Shaker was remained in detention (released from prison on 30th October 2015). His physical and mental health deterioration is a prevalent concern. During the 10 years that Shaker Aamer has been incarcerated in Guantanamo Bay, he’s has never been charged, and he has never denied his innocence. He has continuously lobbied for the welfare of other Guantanamo inmates from within the system. Many believe that this, and his potential as a witness to U.S. human rights abuses, are the reasons he still remains captive.

Through conversations with activists and former detainees; the film paints a picture of who Shaker Aamer is, the injustices he has endured and what his life has involved for the last decade. From Bagram and Guanatanamo Bay prisons, to the unknown dark prisons throughout the world, Shaker Aamer’s story illustrates the lengths to which the U.S. and U.K. governments will go to justify their despicable War on Terror.

Shaker Aamer, time is running out.

The Shaker Aamer Campaign held a protest vigil for Shaker Aamer on Wednesday April 9th 2014 in Parliament Square to bring him home.

Not another day in Guantánamo

London Guantanamo Campaign Demonstration in Trafalgar square on May 23rd 2014. Interview with Aisha Maniar, London Guantanamo Campaigner and organizer of the event, and Noel Hammel, Chair of Kingston Peace Council.

Eleven years in Guantanamo

This video is an interview with the lawyer Clive Stafford Smith about Shaker Aamer.

Shaker Aamer finally released from Guantanamo

Video interview on the day of his release with Shaker’s lawyer Clive Stafford Smith, founder/director of justice charity Reprieve at Biggin Hill airport.

Order Spectacle’s DVDs  Shaker Aamer: a decade of injustice (New Version) and Outside The Law: Stories from Guantánamo

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L&Q lockout Silwood Youth Club

Jacqueline Willis Silwood resident and Ola Walker local youth worker expressed their frustration and hurt after L&Q housing association, current managers of the Lewington Community Centre, cancelled the youth club at short notice. The day before L&Q had cancelled the Zumba class again at very short notice, which sparked a resident sit down.

L&Q have a history of last-minute cancellations of community events including the residents’ Christmas Party. Fortunately, they were given permission to throw the Christmas party, but not without causing distress and anxiety to the community event organisers and the caterers. As the Christmas party drew nearer, they were still in the dark about the availability of the centre.

The Lewington Community Centre, promised under the regeneration of the Silwood estate to serve and be managed by the Silwood neighbourhood has become simply an “asset” of L&Qs portfolio of properties- it is rented out most of the time to Morley College.

These community events were cancelled at extremely short notice, just a few hours before the events were meant to begin. This was particularly unfortunate on the day that they were supposed to hold a youth club event for minors, as it posed a child protection issue when the building closed and they had nowhere to go.

L&Q offer no real explanation for the cancellations. They cite staff shortages but there is no reason for the community not to be keyholders. If they had been keyholders none of the events would have needed to be cancelled.

L&Q seem determined not to allow members of the community-led Lewington Community Centre Management Community (LCCMM) to be keyholders. Indeed L&Q appear to resist any attempt by the community to organise and run their own centre as they were promised they would under the Section 106 agreement. Before the “regeneration” of the estate the community happily and efficiently ran their own centre.

El documental “The truth lies in Rostock” también doblado al castellano.

Ubicado en la antigua República Democrática Alemana RDA, en el distrito de Lichtenhagen, “The truth lies in Rostock” narra los episodios acontecidos entre el 24 y el 25 de agosto de 1992, cuando un grupo de extrema derecha atacó la residencia de un grupo de trabajadores vietnamitas.

Este pogromo tan significativo en la historia del neofascismo de posguerra pasó a la posteridad, no tanto por la agresividad y la gratuidad de la violencia infligida por los manifestantes, si no por la pasividad y la complicidad de sus vecinos. La mayoría de éstos no sólo se hicieron partícipes de ello  no interviniendo sino que además alentaron y animaron a los neonazis a llevar a cabo tales actos vandálicos, proporcionándoles el valor necesario con el cual acabaron prendiéndole fuego al edificio.

El centro de acogida de Mecklemburgo-Pomerania Occidental (Número 18 de la calle Mecklenburg), conocido como ZAst, por sus siglas originales (Zentrale Aufnahmestelle fur Asylbewerber fur) o Sonnenblumenhaus (La casa de los girasoles) como era conocida por los dibujos de su fachada fue la diana de su ira. Fundado en 1991, era el mayor centro al noroeste de Alemania donde se registraban las peticiones de asilo, hasta que éstas pasaban a ser tramitadas por el Estado en un desesperadamente lento proceso burocrático.

El primer claro aviso de un ataque fascista en Lichtenhagen se produjo cuatro días antes, el 21 de agosto, a través de una llamada anónima al Ostsee Zeitung, un periódico local. Hubo advertencias anónimas de que si el fin de semana no se “limpiaba” el refugio ellos se encargarían de hacerlo. Sin embargo nadie dio la voz de alarma ni en la redacción ni en el ayuntamiento, alegando que el mensaje no era lo suficientemente concreto como para crear un dispositivo de alerta.

De todas maneras, una vez empezaron los altercados, y ante las innegables evidencias de que la tensión iba a estallar de la peor manera, El Sonnenblumenhaus fue desalojado. Lejos de reprimir sus quejas, los manifestantes volcaron su rabia sobre el edificio contiguo, hogar de 115 vietnamitas. Afortunadamente, y tal y como puede verse en el documental, no hubo que lamentar la muerte de ninguno de ellos, aunque esto no fuera precisamente por la eficiencia del cuerpo policial, cuyo papel se ha considerado a posteriori escaso y deficiente.

“The truth lies in Rostock” alterna el desarrollo de los hechos aquellos días con el testimonio de vecinos, manifestantes (fascistas y antifascistas) y otros tantos colectivos que vivieron en sus carnes la crispación acontecida. En un intento por investigar los hechos y elaborar un análisis de los mismos, Spectacle entrevista a diferentes cargos públicos cuyo papel fue crucial en la toma de decisiones aquellos días. Sin embargo, lejos de entonar el mea culpa, encontramos una serie de acusaciones cruzadas sobre si la gestión del centro recaía sobre unos u otros, así como si éste era competencia del ayuntamiento regional o no, en un lamentable ejercicio de depuración de responsabilidades.

El documental cuenta con la participación de Herr Magdanz, (concejal de asuntos internos del ayuntamiento de Rostock), Peter Magdanz, (Concejal de asuntos internos del Ayto. de Rostock), Siegfried Kordus, (jefe de policía de Rostock hasta el 25 de agosto de 1992), Klaus Kilimann, (alcalde de Rostock), Herr Zoellick, (Concejal de Juventud, Salud y Deportes y sustituto de Klaus Kilimann), Herr Kordus, Jefe de la Policía de Rostock, que estaba al cargo temporalmente, sólo hasta que el nuevo Jefe de la Policía tomara su puesto el día después de los disturbios, Herr Deckert, (asistente del Jefe de Policía. Rostock), y  Lothar Kupfer, (Ministro del Interior de Mecklenburg Vorpommer).

Puede obtener más información en castellano sobre el documental en el catálogo de la página web de Spectacle, donde podrá también encontrar el guión traducido para descargar. Así mismo puede encargar una copia física en castellano o ver el documental en nuestra cuenta de Vimeo en inglés.

Para más información relacionado con el caso de Rostock, puede consultar nuestro blog, donde encontrará diferentes artículos en inglés. 

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Silwood residents sit-down to demand a community centre.

After a series of community events have been cancelled at short notice, when L&Q suddenly announced the Lewington Centre on the Silwood Estate would closed at 5pm- not the scheduled 9pm, it was the final straw, after 20 years of being excluded from their own centre. 

Residents wanted to show that there were people who would be prepared to manage and close the building after 5pm. The women were resident community workers and representatives of residents and tenant groups.

Residents were not asked to leave by L&Q but soon after 5 the police were in the room.

This is not the whole story.

Since the building was open L&Q have resisted all attempts by the community to manage and use their own centre.

This sit down was not just about a zumba class being cancelled. It was the last straw in a 20 year struggle for the community to get the centre “regeneration” promised.

What Silwood residents had pre Regeneration: a mish-mash of community resources, youth clubs, a nursery, a creche, education and training facilities, clubs and groups, council supported and bottom up initiatives effectively run and organised by residents, paid or voluntary. Many were much loved by the community and the residents made the best of what little they had.

What they were promised, the justification for the entire regeneration scheme was a bigger, better, purpose built community centre and facilities.

What they have 20 years on is the “Lewington Centre.” A building L&Q run and refer to as an “asset” and a business. The centre is in fact let out to Morley College most of the week so it is not available for community use.There is nothing “purpose-built” about the Lewington Centre. With 25 flats above the main hall, occupied by key workers, some on night shifts, the building was never suitable for the kind of noisy social  and community events like birthday parties, weddings.  The acoustics have been a constant problem. Just a few teenagers playing table tennis made a deafening noise before expensive sound remediation.

L&Q insisted they had to build the flats above the centre to provide an income stream to make the centre sustainable. Its not clear why the flats needed to be physically located on top of the building given the huge amount of land L&Q were given in the regeneration deal. Without transparency and published accounts it is also not clear what this income, combined with the rental from Morley College and other private hires, is actually spent on. Do L&Q really need to charge the community to use their own hall for social and community events to “cover their overheads”?

The community want some very basic things so they can once again manage their own community resources:

Management of activities and social events at the community centre.

Registered Community key holders.

Recognition of the Community Centre Management Committee (CCMC)

Published accounts for Lewington Centre. (required under Section 106)

These are simple demands. It is curious L&Q are so resistant. Why?

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Chesterton School Mural Repair

In the playground of Chesterton School, Battersea SW11 is a much-loved mural painted by the talented Brian Barnes.

Due to construction work on the school ground, the top part of the mural was damaged and needed repair. Watch our video below of Brian explaining the different panels.

Below is a log written in his own words about the process of repairing the mural. 

“The mural needed repairs because the wall was replaced taking away about 200 sq ft. of the painting equivalent to a quarter of the mural. All above the climbing studs which tended to be the most detailed.

Morgan Paton helped me in the weeks of the summer holidays. The weather was very warm with a very hot day of 38 degrees in the shade but little shade, Morgan made a tarpaulin shelter. We had a few volunteers Omero painted the blue arc on 27th August. Then we also had help from Fraya and Liam. Morgan painting Downe House home of Charles Darwin near Bromley. I painted a new version of the portrait of Darwin from a photo.

We went on Saturday 21st September to complete the repairs having painted for 10 days for 120 hours (not including an extra drawing for the Darwin portrait on paper)”

Brian Barnes is the founder of the Battersea Power Station community group. You can follow the links below for more updated information on the campaign to save the power station.

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs, information and videos.

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Silwood Community Centre Management Committee

Before the “regeneration” of the Silwood Estate by Lewisham and L&Q in 2000 the residents successfully ran their own community centre and youth facilities- either voluntarily or employed.

These facilities, the youth club, cyber centre, community hall, under 5s etc were demolished and residents were promised a bigger and better purpose built “Community Centre” to not just replace but improve on what they lost. What followed was a systematic disempowerment of the community. What they got was the L&Q run “Lewington Centre”, a totally unsuitable building that residents struggle to access. L&Q sublet the building to Morley College which is of no benefit to the community and means the building is rarely available for residents to use.

On the 16th of September 2019, the Silwood community held a meeting to form the Community Centre Management Committee (CCMC). This meeting symbolises local people of Silwood wanting to come together to improve the facilities of the community and surrounding areas.  

Silwood Community Centre run by L&Q

Historically, the residents successfully ran their own community centre and amenities. Sadly, under the regeneration of the estate, L&Q housing association took control of the new purpose-built community centre that was meant to not just replace but improve the facilities lost. Following the regeneration, L&Q then sub-let the centre to Morley College and the community has felt excluded ever since.

After years of frustration, the establishment of an independent CCMC means the whole community could have their voice heard. In the past L&Q have managed to make promises and not keep them to individuals without being made accountable but now with the strength of the committee, this will happen no more. A significant improvement for the community, as in the past, resident’s concerns about the management of the estate was falling on to deaf ears and there was no one to hold L&Q accountable to fulfil promises made.

Spectacle has been documenting the resident’s struggle since 1999 and continue to do so today. We believe that the injustice done to the residents is unacceptable. By setting up the Silwood video group to document and lobby for a meaningful regeneration, we are working with the community to help bring awareness to the mistreatment of Silwood residents. 

The group has participated in workshops organised by Spectacle and filmed the consultative meetings so they have a personal record.

Rita Edmond, Community Develop Practitioner, in her interview, exclaims,  “we stand together, and we fall together.” which is an attitude that currently illustrates the unity of the Silwood community and their hopes for the future. 

Another interviewee, Pembe Kumbi, Local entrepreneur, said the community has lots of hidden young talent that will be expressed through the use of the community centre. 

There is so much opportunity for Lewington Community Centre to become a hub for people to gather for youth groups and an assortment of classes. Joyce Jacca mentions all sorts of potential uses for the centre if it is allowed to be run by the locals. 

This represents a whole new chapter in the Silwood story that goes to the heart of community empowerment and wellbeing.   

Click Silwood Video Group for more blogs
Or visit PlanA  for general posts on urbanism, planning and architecture.
See our Silwood Video Group project pages for more information and videos.
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