L&Q Media Centre put spin on Silwood Under 5’s Playgroup

Meeting between community steering group members and L&Q staff, in which staff asked not to be filmed or photographed

Meeting between community steering group members and L&Q staff, chaired by Southwark Councillor Anood Al-Samerai (left). L&Q staff asked not to be filmed or photographed.

Major “Registered Social Landlord” of Silwood Estate (SE16), London & Quadrant’s ‘Media Centre’ have published a report on the re-launch of the Silwood Estate Under 5s playgroup, which omits many aspects of the story that we considered crucial to our report last week. L&Q’s alternative report portrays the company as having played a large part in saving the playgroup, neglecting to mention the eight month battle Silwood residents faced to secure the £11,500 of funding they have finally received, which is a one-off grant not expected to be renewed next year. Nor do L&Q mention that many believe the funding, and far more money, belong rightfully to the community, who were promised the Lewington Centre to replace their previous community building as a condition of the estates redevelopment, which began in the early 2000s.

At a meeting between L&Q staff and community steering group members last week, L&Q’s long-standing obligation to hand the building over to the community was reiterated by Southwark Councillor and leader of the Southwark Liberal Democrat group Anood Al-Samerai – who reminded those present that the centre should ultimately be run by a committee comprising predominantly local people working with a minority of L&Q representatives. Alarmingly, this was met with apparent confusion from L&Q staff, who, under their Section 106 obligations, are supposed to have been working towards this goal since the centre opened in 2009, if not before.

Among a slew of now-broken promises, Silwood residents were led to believe they would have at least priority access to the building, which in actuality was made unviable as a venue for many community events by apartments being built above the main hall. Large parts of the building are also regularly leased to a local college, making them unavailable to the community. As we reported, and L&Q failed to mention, money collected from the Lewington Centre flats each week was meant to be set aside for the community, to make up for the restrictions they impose on using the building. By the same logic, profit made on renting the space should be shared with the community, who are, after all, supposed to manage the building.

Instead of mentioning these things, L&Q appear to be trying to use the re-launch of the playgroup to promote themselves. They boast that, “Children and families in and around the Silwood Estate, Southwark, are celebrating the re-launch of their local playgroup thanks to the work of the Silwood Community Steering Group and an £11,500 grant from L&Q housing association.” They go on to describe themselves in favourable terms, as, “One of the largest housing associations in the capital,” owning “70,000 homes across London and the South East as well as being a leading residential developer of new and affordable homes.” The PR department seem oblivious to the fact that, given London property prices, £11,500 for a company that owns 70,000 houses doesn’t come across as an especially generous sum.

Karen Westbrook, Resident Services Manager for L&Q, concludes the ‘Media Centre’ article, saying, “Helping the Silwood Community Steering Group to re-launch a playgroup service was a great opportunity for us to step in and support the nearby community and L&Q residents of the Silwood estate.” This is an interesting take on what many would consider to be a story of community disempowerment, in which a resource has been effectively taken away from residents and then reluctantly lent back to them by L&Q after a long campaign and apparently in exchange for undeserved good PR.

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See our Silwood Video Group project pages for more information and videos.
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Silwood Estate community centre playgroup reopens

IMG_2465

The Silwood Estate Under 5s playgroup reopened today, eight months after it closed. The playgroup, which is held in the purpose-built Lewington Community Centre on the Silwood Estate in Rotherhithe, was shut down in November when Lewisham Council withdrew funding. Since then a number of community members have been fighting to save the playgroup and have finally secured £11,500 towards wages from London and Quadrant (L&Q), who own the building.

Although the playgroup reopening is extremely good news, securing the funding is a small victory for the Silwood Estate community in what is likely to be an ongoing battle with L&Q. Residents have been struggling to stake their claim on the Lewington building, and the profit it generates, since it opened five years ago. Before 2006 (when construction work began), L&Q said they would replace an existing, community managed building with a better, purpose built community centre in order to incentivise local support for their proposed redevelopment of the estate. Consequently, the Lewington Centre was built under a section 106 planning gain agreement, which gives a developer favourable terms (in this case free land) but stipulates that they must compensates the community in return.

Despite promises from L&Q, the community have struggled with both the suitability of the Lewington Centre and accessing the space – which is controlled by an L&Q manager, not the local community.

To start with, Tower Homes, the commercial wing of L&Q, built “affordable” flats for “key workers” (e.g. nurses, teachers, police officers) on top of the centre, making the building unsuitable for evening social events, even after expensive sound-proofing work. To soften this blow, Tower Homes promised tenants that £25 would be collected from each flat each week to put towards community activities. When this money didn’t materialise, L&Q claimed they had put it aside, ring-fenced for community development, before forgetting about it.

L&Q have also made the building largely inaccessible to residents by renting almost the entire centre to the Bede Education Trust, a subsidiary of Morley College, and have not donated the money from this to the community either. L&Q’s accounts suggest that they are making a yearly profit of between £30,000 and £60,000 from the building. When this is considered, securing space and funding for the playgroup seems like little more than prising a single finger loose from the vice-like grip L&Q have on the centre and its profits.

Silwood’s residents are delighted to have a place to go with their children again, which is outside their homes and provides an opportunity to meet other parents. But many still hope that L&Q will go further towards honouring the spirit of their original promise, to provide a better replacement for a centre that was entirely community run, and from which only the community profited.

Click Silwood Video Group for more blogs
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.
See our Silwood Video Group project pages for more information and videos.
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L&Q, the Lewington Centre & community dis-empowerment

Back in 1999-2006 residents of the Silwood Estate, Rotherhithe, were repeatedly promised by Lewisham Council and London & Quadrant (L&Q) that when the estate was “regenerated” their existing and community managed community centre and other facilities would be replaced with a better, purpose built, community centre- later called the Lewington Centre.

The Lewington Centre was built under a section 106 planning gain agreement whereby a developer who is given very favourable terms ( in this case free land ) “compensates” the community. This was already a form of double dipping as Section 106 implies the community is getting something new- not replacing what they have lost.

About 4 years ago, the Lewington Centre opened. From the outset the building was clearly not fit for purpose. The “owner” Tower Homes ( the commercial wing of London & Quadrant ) had insisted on building “affordable” flats for “key workers” (e,g, nurses, teachers) on top of the centre. Which, even after expensive re-working of the acoustics and sound proofing, still make the hall unusable for evening social events. Many key workers work night shifts too. Tower Homes sweetened the greedy inclusion of 25 flats by promising tenants that £25.00 per flat per week would go towards funding the community activities.

This has not happened. Under the Section 106 agreement L&Q must submit publicly available full accounts for the centre every September- they have not done this and we have only been able to access them via a Freedom of Information request. Three years ago L&Q’s own accounts were showing the Lewington Centre was generating a carry forward profit of £120,000. A few years back at what turned out to be the last Community Forum convened by L&Q  Paul Nehra, L&Q’s “Community Investment Manager” promised that the money was ring fenced for investment into the centre.

When pushed on why this never happened L&Q claimed though they did collect the £25 p.w. from their hard pressed tenants they “forgot” to pass it on it to the community. Now the profit has “disappeared” completely.

Take a look at the attached files to compare the ‘delayed’ Income and Expenditure accounts. (2008-9 to 2011-12 is the most recent one we received after the Freedom of Information request, pretty different from one another.)

Accounts September 2009

Accounts 2008-9 to 2011-12

Christine Oettinger, chair of PACT (Parents and Children Together), says:

”L&Q needs to explain where the profit is coming from. Because in regards to the community centre alone, the profit from only the residential flats (which is 25 flats above this building) are meant to be used for the running and management of the centre. The building was put together only four years ago. How could it be that within a short period of time the financial model has failed? There is no translucency between how the money  is spent and where the money is going. The Community Centre is supposed to be self – sufficient The financial model explains that the income generated from the residential units is to fund the running of the community areas a 100%. Plus – Surplus. So: where has the money gone and how is the money being spent? And: where is the surplus? In some of the agreements that L&Q agreed to, when they accepted the [Section 106] funds, they were there for the community to provide the facilities, to provide a place for children, to provide a place for vulnerable families to go to. That’s not exactly what’s happening now.”

One of the services was a playgroup for parents to bring their under 5s. As opposed to  sitting at home this was the place to go take their kids and meet other people .

SILWplayground

However, the playgroup for under 5s has now closed, because suddenly Lewisham Council were going to stop funding the workers. The playgroup was there before the regeneration and it was used by people of the community. It is something that has always been funded by Lewisham Council. Residents feel it was just another thing being taken away from them.

Doreen Dower, Secretary of the local Tenants and Residents Association, who is already involved for a long time knows the reason for this:

‘When you have regeneration, the community dies. It was a 40 year old community with people coming and going, but it had still people in there from the beginning. But once that’s gone, you kind of just have to start again. And that is the biggest problem. Now we finally got this letter coming in that says: we need a management committee. But there are no volunteers. We’re still trying to get that off the ground with L&Q. They are supposed to be a non-profit organisation, but it doesn’t seem to work this way.’

This is an ongoing problem for the tenants association as well, trying to get people involved, they cannot afford to pay the rent being charged by L&Q for the room that was purpose built to accommodate them.

“There’s no nursery for the community, it’s all gone. All the things we were promised at the beginning, we would have it in one building. But then the goal post kept shifting and in the end, when I wanted to pull it down, they still hadn’t built it. They also pulled everything else down and then we had nothing.”

Allegedly in breach of their Section 106 agreement L&Q has now sub-let almost the entire centre to the Bede Education Trust, a subsidiary of Morley College.

“The college in the Community Centre also takes up a lot of time and a lot of space. It was built as a Community Centre, not as a college. Therefore some of the things the College are doing, doesn’t fit in. They closed off half of the hall.” adds Doreen.

Recently there have been meetings with residents, centre users and L&Q to discuss the problems but this has been pushed along by Southwark council and tenacious individuals like Christine Oettinger. L&Q say there is going to be a revamp on the finances, so the whole Lewington Centre is not necessarily going to close. There is still hope to get the Under5s Playgroup open again as well. But so far the L&Q response has been to drag its feet and, as ever, offer empty promises.

On the Silwood Estate local residents have lost a vital community life through the physical regeneration of the estate. A community that used to run and manage their own facilities has, in Spectacle’s opinion, been systematically dis-empowered.

We wonder how things are at other L&Q run community facilities. Anyone know?

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Support our work by ordering Silwood related books, maps, dvds and prints from Spectacle’s shop.

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DMAU – Participatory Documentary

DMAU’s  research project on Participatory Documentary features a video report that introduces one of Spectacle’s participatory projects APaNGO. The video explains the projects purpose – developing a strong community based network that promotes urban participation in planning through social media.

The central aim of Spectacle’s video workshops is to train residents to film and edit video footage and through this capture and influence the changing physical and human face of their neighbourhood.” Mark Saunders, Spectacle Founder.

DMAU specialises in documentary film-making and urban research. DMAU (or Digital Media Architecture Urbanism) provide a selection of participatory media in the form of visual essays, interviews and case studies.

“Our work focuses on projects – designs and documentaries – that improve the public realm, be that built designs or temporary events and interventions, with an emphasis on work that has a positive social or environmental impact” –                                             Daryl Mulvihill, DMAU Founder.

The scope of this project spreads across various countries in the EU and works upon maintaining strong communities. It is therefore a good example of how participatory media can influence and support social development.

An accompanying interview with Spectacle founder Mark Saunders gives a broader understanding of how Spectacle works with communities to encourage social media. The interview explains the importance that participatory production workshops have, and the significance they have upon urban regeneration.

The DMAU research project explores:

“The potentials for the use of documentary practice in urban research and design projects go much further than the traditionally formatted video production. New interactive documentaries combine film with a range of other media; photography, maps, soundscapes and data visualisations to create an immersive experience for the viewer. Next to this participatory documentary has the ability to empower and engage communities by bringing their story to a wider audience. We will see how interactive and participatory documentary is not simply about producing stories. It is as much about designing a storytelling process that engages with the voices of people impacted by an event or ongoing situation.”

Spectacle now runs affordable effective Participatory Video Weekend Training Courses

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Exodus 2 DVD Special Offer

Spectacle has a special 2 DVD offer: Exodus Extended Mix and Exodus from Babylon for £18.00 (including VAT and post)

Exodus Extended Mix

 

Never seen on UK TV Exodus Extended Mix was broadcast by ARTE in Germany, France  and Italy. It contains all the 26 minutes of Exodus: Movement of Jah People that Channel 4 broadcast plus an extra 18 minutes on HAZ Manor, attempts to get the Ark, on prohibition and the police operations.

Exodus offer working, viable solutions to many of society’s stated ills, poverty, crime, drugs, unemployment and the break down of community.

Exodus is a unique urban phenomenon which does not simply confront but intelligently challenges society’s assumptions and values. They offer working, viable solutions to many of society’s stated ills, poverty, crime, drugs, unemployment and the break down of community. Exodus blend a volatile mixture of rastafarianism, new-age punk and street smart politics. ‘We are not drop outs but force outs.’

Exodus from Babylon

 


The utopian Luton based Exodus Collective has met with powerful opposition. This film investigates the intricate web of this opposition and identifies a number of interlocking interests at play.

The Luton based Exodus Collective came into existence in 1992 as part of the growing DIY culture which arose in response to unemployment, poverty and frustration amongst young people.

They organised free ‘rave’ parties, renovated derelict homes, set up a community farm and now plan to open a community centre.Some of their activities border on illegality but they are entirely peaceful Exodus has a huge following amongst local people.

Their philosophy has a strong spiritual strand, appealing to notions of community and natural justice in its struggle for survival and renewal. However, their utopian project presents a challenge to the status quo and has met with powerful opposition.

Exodus from Babylon investigates the intricate web of this opposition, from aggressive policing to local government obstruction. It reveals the shift in policing from reactive peace keeping to proactive intervention, involving a series of special operations by Bedfordshire Police.

The programme looks in detail at a number of police actions against Exodus, including the prosecution and acquittal of collective member, Paul Taylor, for possession of Ecstasy and for murder. It asks why the strategy of getting tough with Exodus emerged and identifies a number of interlocking interests at play.

Exodus from Babylon contains original music by the Exodus Collective and some great reggae tunes.

Buy on Paypal below or visit our distribution page for details of other payment methods

£15.00 +VAT = £18.00 (post is included)

 

Exodus Special Select buyer,language and format

Visit Spectacle’s Archive for more videos on Exodus and Marsh Farm
Watch Cracklife music video. Shot in a one day workshop on Marsh Farm with Marsh Farm Outreach and local youth
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The Good. The Bad. And Section 106.

Sil Workshop 28-07-05

Spectacle, having established the Silwood Video Group, have been an active presence on the Silwood Estate since 2001, and in nearly 10 years of voluntary film-workshops and attendance at Residents’ Meetings, we have seen the landscape of this slice of South-East London change, and change as a result of regeneration.

Since 2005 at the Residents’ Forum Meetings, which are now held quarterly, the residents have asked to see the business plans for development and to have access to details of Section 106, which was declared a ‘non-public document’ by the London & Quadrant NIT Manager on the Silwood. The statement was later retracted, but the Section 106 document, to date, has not been made available to residents.

Tower Homes, the commercial wing of London & Quadrant, won the planning permission rights to the land in the Silwood area, on which they intended to build luxury apartments. By law, this makes them accountable to Section 106 Agreement of the Town and Country Planning Act (1990), which states that if development is agreed upon, for example, Lewisham Council awarding planning permission to Tower Homes, then the new landowners must provide resources that are of benefit to the community that will be affected by the development. In the case of the Silwood, London & Quadrant was entrusted with the responsibility of overseeing the re-provision of community facilities, play areas/ parks, and youth centres on the Estate, which were demolished as a result of the regeneration process. The Lewington Centre was then built as a replacement for the former community centre and the Cyber Centre under Section 106.

Residents are currently being asked to pay relatively steep rates in order to use their new Centre, but the bone of contention lies in the fact that, according to the ‘Regeneration Project Initiation Document’, freely available from Lewisham Council, London & Quadrant allocated a fund of £2 million in order to meet their Section 106 obligations. On top of this, despite the claim of London & Quadrant representatives at Residents’ Meetings on the Silwood that these rates are essential to their business plan and the long-term running of the Lewington Centre, their business plan for 2009 shows that they have made a profit in the region of £120, 000. So why do they seem so unwilling to invest in fully rebuilding the local infrastructure?

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See our Silwood Video Group project pages for more information and videos.

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Battersea Power Station-Privatising the river front

BATTERSEA POWER STATION and Berkeley Homes are blocking the river access. REO, current owners of Battersea Power Station, are planning to do nothing on the site until after 2012 and not completing construction until 2020. That is their planned schedule, of course there could be delays and it could slip into the mid or late 20s. Meanwhile Londoners are excluded from using the river front.

REO like to claim they are concerned to benefit local people and Londoners in general but actually do nothing to back this up. A quick and relatively cheap benefit REO could implement NOW to demonstrate their good intentions would be to open up access to the river.

The Thames Path, part of the National Trail, is unique, it’s the only long distance path to follow a river for most of its length. It should be possible to walk the entire length of the River Thames through the city centre.

Thames Path (section 14)

Thames Path (section 14)

Currently the Thames Path on the south bank going east runs along the embankment of  Battersea Park, extends to a new pedestrian bridge that goes under Chelsea Bridge towards the Power Station.

New pedestrian footbridge under Chelsea Bridge looking east

There is then a short riverside path running in front of the new Berkeley Homes flats that ends in a gate saying: “Private Property: No public Access Beyond this point. Site access only” and “Danger Construction Site”

Is this really "private property"?

Is this really "private property"?

There is no obvious reason why Berkeley Homes should be able to privatise this river front access for their exclusive use. Is it legal? There is no sign of any construction work being done beyond these gates. It cannot be because the Power Station is unsafe as REO, current owners of the site, have recently agreed to build a marquee inside the roofless turbine hall between the four chimneys for lucrative income generating public events.

View of Berkeley Home's office from north bank

View of Berkeley Home's office from the north bank. Why is this blocking the "Thames Path"?

The path could easily extend east in front of the power station and connect with the Thames Path at Kirtling St and Tideway Walk.
The only real obstacle is the Cringle Street Refuse Transfer Station. However at other points on the Thames were there are such riverside waste transfer stations the path continues inside a protective cage. On REO’s own model (below) they showed the path going out onto a jetty over the river.  The grey jetty already exists only the white jetty extensions at either end are needed to make the Thames Path continuous and by pass the Refuse Transfer Station.

REO's model showing extended jetty running in front of Waste Transfer Station

REO's model showing extended jetty running in front of Waste Transfer Station

REO’s own plans shows a riverside footbridge going around the waste transfer plant. A small extension of the jetty ( in white) provides a path that bypasses the Waste transfer plant.

There is no reason the Thames Path could not be opened up NOW, cheaply and immediately. If you want to let REO know how you feel about them blocking the Thames Path you can fill in their questionnaire.

Visit Spectacle’s on-going Battersea Power Station Project

Watch a video trailer here: Battersea Power Station – The Story So Far

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If you live in the neighbourhood and would like to get involved, contact us here putting Battersea Power Station in your message.

Click here to view more Battersea Power Station links

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If you would like to object to the planning applications for Battersea Power Station you have until January 31st 2010 click here for more details.

For more information about Spectacle’s Battersea Power Station project including video interviews.

To read more blogs about Battersea Power Station

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Do you have any ideas for Battersea Power Station?

Do you have ideas for how Battersea power station could be used NOW or in the FUTURE?

REO, the current owners of Battersea Power Station, make vague promises about community use and access to the site but all their plans are projected way into the future. REO’s schedule is “planning” until 2012 and building only set to finish in 2020- nearly 40 years after the power station was decommissioned.

Do you have any ideas for immediate use?

How about something for the kids like a giant adventure playground?
A river bus hub for river buses that acccept oyster cards?

The building is so huge, many times the size of its little and uglier sister the Tate Modern, it can probably accommodate all your ideas.

REO insist on only considering grandiose money making schemes on the site. They clearly plan to do nothing until 2012 and then only if they get their tube extension. This “all or nothing” approach flies in the face of current economic realities and other successful models of re-using industrial buildings based on either gradual and organic development or imaginative re-use of the spaces.

Do you have any ideas for how to use such a big building?

A museum of power technology; steam, water, wind, coal?
A Museum of the Thames? It could contain many boats, it has a river front. It has a great views from the chimneys.
An extension of the Science or Natural History Museums for all their bigger exhibits?
A Museum of Flight. Battersea has connections with aviation e.g.1900s Battersea Balloon Works.

Most of REO’s plans are for building around the site.Their ideas for the power station are banal, a conference centre (yawn), hotel and shopping (novel) and, would you believe, flats. If there was ever a building inappropriate for residential use it is Battersea Power Station. Their plans necessitate vandalising the magnificent brick facades by punching through windows in order to maximise income generating floor space. Light wells would be the more appropriate, architecturally sensitive but less profitable option.

Do you have any ideas that do not mean destroying the architectural value of the building?

REO make much of the “green spaces” ( the little bits between what they plan to build around the power station) but are less keen to make clear most are private spaces. Do you have ideas for the site that do not require surrounding and obscuring the Power Station with dense ugly office buildings?

Do you have any ideas how to use the current open spaces around the power station?

Doing nothing until 2020 demonstrates a bankruptcy of ideas by REO. If REO cannot think of, or at least allow, any uses that benefit Londoners and the local community then they are unsuitable custodians of a national treasure and should hand over the site to public ownership.

Visit Spectacle’s on-going Battersea Power Station Project

Watch a video trailer here: Battersea Power Station – The Story So Far

Subscribe to our newsletter mailing list, visit our contact page to subscribe

If you live in the neighbourhood and would like to get involved, contact us here putting Battersea Power Station in your message.

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URBZ MASHUP workshops hit 6 cities

Like the Urban Typhoon workshops in Tokyo (2006) and Mumbai (2008) , the URBZ MASHUP workshops, too will provide an opportunity to explore a city, connect with local residents, artists, architects, designers and musicians. This workshop aims at unleashing the global imagination and celebrating locality by producing photos, videos, interviews, drawings, renderings, writing (fiction & non-fiction), installations, performances in and about specific streets and places. The output of the workshops will be exhibited physically and virtually at the end of the workshop.

The URBZ MASHUP is a seven day event comprising 5 days of workshop and 2 days of seminar + exhibition. It will be held in the following cities:

Tokyo: July 1-5, 2009
Istanbul: August 2-9, 2009
Mumbai: Nov. 22-29, 2009
Rio: February 7-13, 2010
New York: April, 2010
Amsterdam: June, 2010

For information please visit www.urbz.net/mashup

Please visit our Links page for information on Urbanism

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