Memories of Battersea: Mohamed

Memories of Battersea is a video oral history project run by Spectacle and funded by the Wandsworth Grant Fund. The project gives young adults from Battersea the opportunity to be trained in film-making while producing short films about their neighbourhood, collecting memories from elder Battersea residents, bridging intergenerational gaps and engaging with the history of their borough.

In this video, we meet Mohamed Ali, a local community organisation founder and Battersea resident who immigrated from Somalia with his family in the late 90s to seek a better life away from the on-going Somali civil war.

Mohamed Ali, local Battersea resident and founder of Elays Network.

Mohamed spends his time working in the R & E Centre on St Rule Street in the SW8 area. He started Elays Network to work primarily in youth development and education but as the organisation expanded, they began to involve men and women of all ages in various activities, focusing on building bridges between the migrant communities and the host communities.

Most recently some of the organisation’s women came together to curate an event called Somali Women in the Arts which saw them exhibit their artwork, from paintings to poetry, in the Battersea Power Station.

Somali Women in the Arts exhibition, held at the Battersea Power Station.

He talks about his early experiences adjusting to life in London, the urban development and gentrification in Battersea and its impact on the lower and working class, the establishment of the Somali community within the borough of Wandsworth and how he founded Elays Network. He also relives some key events of how Elays has helped to strengthen and and bring together the Battersea community, as well as suggesting how the migrant and host communities should move forward in becoming a better integrated, accepting and united society.

Watch the full film here on Vimeo.

Visit Spectacle’s Memories of Battersea channel on Vimeo to watch other episodes featuring Battersea residents’ unique stories.

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Plans to reveal yet another statue.

The Camden New Journal yesterday uncovered plans to erect a statue of Christ the Redeemer on Primrose Hill. The statue will be a tribute to the one overlooking Rio de Janeiro, to celebrate passing on the torch (pun begrudgingly intended) to Brazil for 2016.

The Brazilian government would fund the project, and a planning consultancy based in London has been employed by Brazil’s tourist agency to hold a public meeting to display the designs before applications for planning permission are submitted.

The Camden-based design company See Me, Hear Me, Feel Me did not want to discuss the plans, and the Brazilian government was unavailable for comment, but Primrose Hill Lib Dem councillor Chris Naylor said he wasn’t sure a 30ft statue of Christ with his arms outstretched was quite what the area needed.

Other statues to celebrate the Olympics have been erected around Britain, often to the displeasure of residents. The ‘Jurassic Stones’ statue, by Richard Harris, has been greeted with horror by residents of Weymouth, Dorset. The Stones’ £335,000 bill pales in comparison to the £19m spent on Anish Kapoor’s ‘ArcelorMittal Orbit’, on site in Stratford.

 

Many people question why so much money is being spent on statues to celebrate the Olympics, and whether it is appropriate in the current economic climate. The term ‘Legacy’ has always been used to describe the impact of mega-events like the Games: urban development, social, economic and cultural changes are words often thrown around in relation to the Legacy. However, the term has been re-appropriated by critics of the Games and become somewhat of a joke. The Legacy that does seem to be taking shape is symbolised in the statues cropping up around the country – abstracted, distorted, and expensive.

The real Olympic Legacy will be towering debt.

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Real Estate Opportunities “debt D-day” approaches

The financial credibility of the owners of the Battersea Power Station site, REO (Real Estate Opportunities) faces a strong test on the 31st of August when payments are due to both NAMA – the Irish toxic debt bank – and Lloyds Banking group. REO’s creditors have recently appointed Ernst & Young as insolvency advisers in advance of the 31st August deadline. Further details on the ‘debt D-day’ are available via the  The Telegraph and Co Star Group.

The Battersea site was bought in 2006 by REO, which is in majority owned by Irish group Treasury Holdings. This purchase occurred during the craziest period of the Irish property bubble. We can see remnants of the bubble in the current development proposal for the Power Station site. The plans bear all the hallmarks of the worst in speculative urban development that occurred during the bubble. However London has remained somewhat immune to the property bubble, and developers are happy to continue with business as usual and forget anything ever happened. This ‘developers dementia’ is of course good news for REO’s creditors NAMA who have been actively encouraged by some commentators to keep inflating a London property bubble.

Within all of this financial wheeling and dealing the real question is being ignored. That is not how long REO can sustain its current level of debt, but one of how long more the planning authorities in London will go on supporting the speculative urban development charade that inflates such bubbles.

The Battersea site is to be developed with a FAR (Floor Area Ratio) of roughly 5.0. This density is above average for London and well above an acceptable maximum density for a northern European city. Such densities sacrifice important basic human needs like daylight and turn open spaces and streets into canyon like wind tunnels. The only purpose such densities serve is to maximise short term profits for developers.

London’s planning authorities need to develop new thinking and approaches to the development of such iconic locations. Which have at their heart urban design that pays regard to human scale and the longer term societal, environmental and cultural needs of the city, rather than pandering to the demands of the demented developers.

 

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UK’s Olympic win could leave London tourism a major loser

The official agency behind promoting tourism for London has admitted that the 2012 Olympic Games could lead to a lull in visitors to the capital next year, which may have a damaging impact on the UK’s stuttering economic recovery.

London & Partners has acknowledged there “could be a problem” with people not wanting to come to London over fears, such as over-crowded transport, a lack of, or high prices for, hotel rooms, and the capital resembling a building site, from 1 January until the Olympics end on 27 August.

More on the Independent

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New Olympic legacy website: London-Rio: Olympic Cities

Mega Event Cities

London-Rio: Olympic Cities

“Cities across the globe are using mega events to catalyse urban development and social, economic and cultural change. Here we present insights and analysis of these events, examining their impact upon city-building and exploring their contribution to the design and shaping of place.

Our research is policy focused and practical. Our approach is focused upon the social impacts and legacies of mega events. We use interdisciplinary analysis to discover new ways of comparing and thinking about the mega event city.

We are interested in receiving comments on the site and suggestions for relevant material or links to be placed on it. The site will be dedicated primarily to housing academic work on the social legacies of mega events, particularly those referring to London 2012 or Rio 2016. We would also welcome links to our site being placed in sites addressing similar themes.”

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Olympics could have negative effects on sports participation

After London was announced as the host of the 2012 Olympic Games, Labour made a number of promises about using the Olympics as a way of inspiring people to be more healthy and get involved with sport and exercise. They planned to get a million more people playing sport three or more times a week and to get a million more people doing more general physical activity. Whether it is actually possible for mega events such as the Olympics to have this kind of impact is something which has been contested by a number of studies.

The BMJ set out to find any study that had ever been conducted looking at the real-world health and socioeconomic impacts on places which have hosted major sporting events. From the 54 studies they found,  there seemed to be no evidence to support the idea that events like Olympics have a positive effect on health or socioeconomic outcomes.

One of the studies looked at the 2002 Manchester Commonwealth Games and found that sports participation fell after the games, and there became in an increased gap in participation between the rich and the poor areas of Manchester.

Another study in Manchester suggested problems arose because voluntary groups were being excluded from using Commonwealth branding and the new facilities built for the event tended to only benefit professional athletes rather than the general population.

The government now seems to be dropping any focus it had on its original plan to use the Olympics to get people involved with healthy activity and sport, probably having come to the realisation that they will never meet the large targets that they originally proposed. This goes to show that the government can make big claims when they are bidding to get these events but when it comes down to it, they don’t actually have to follow these claims through.

For more information click Bad Science

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LOCOG to ban cameras from the Olympics

Amateur Photographer has reported that the London Organising Committee for the Olympic Games and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is putting restrictions on the type of photographic equipment that the public will be allowed to bring to the Games, and are banning cameras from certain events altogether.

A photography enthusiast wrote to LOCOG asking if he would be allowed to bring his DSLR lens to the Stadium, and was told in an email that ‘LOCOG has yet to finalise the spectator filming and photography guidelines. As with other large sporting events there may be restrictions for spectators on the size of lenses permitted into venues.’

It is believed that certain kinds of equipment will be banned from the Games altogether, whilst no flash photography will be allowed at all in the public stands during certain events, such as shooting.

LOCOG is set to discuss its final photography guidelines at talks in the summer and in September. Once they have been finalised, the guidelines will be published on their website.

Read the full article here.

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Financial Times Reveals Welfare-to-Work Programme Chaos

OLYPHOTO - 270

The Welfare-to-Work Programme has been described as “set to fail” by Sir Robin Wales, Mayor of Newham – the host borough for the 2012 London Olympics. In a fortnight, the winners of contracts are due to be announced, putting the unemployed and people on disability benefits back to work. However, Sir Robin believes that there is “a serious risk that some of the best prime providers may walk away”. Out of 11 bidders for the East and South London contract, 3 will be appointed in order to provide competition. Sir Robin said that he is yet to be convinced that ‘three prime contractors each delivering across 17 boroughs will do anything other than lead to confusion amongst job seekers and contractors’.

The rules the work programme has in place could themselves prevent people from taking one of the 100,000 jobs that the Olympics are meant to create. This is because providers will be paid the majority of their fee once they have managed to provide individuals with sustained work for a period of up to 2 years. However, given the short-term nature of most of the Olympic jobs on offer, the possibility of people taking jobs, becoming unemployed again and having to re-start the work programme a year later may prove discouraging.

Sir Robin believes that the government needs to ‘ensure that working in an Olympic job does not disadvantage the indivdual’ to avoid losing out on ‘the single greatest opportunity in Newham’s history to get our residents into work’.

To see the full article click Olympic jobless drive heads for ‘Chaos’

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LOCOG facing legal action over re-sale of hotel packages

The London Olympics Committee off the Olympic and Paralympic Games (LOCOG) is facing the prospect of legal action from a number of hotel chains in the UK, who are currently reviewing the contracts they signed offering the committee preferential prices for hotel rooms during the 2012 Olympics.

The chains allege that the rooms they offered are now being sold at inflated prices by the official London 2012 travel agent Thomas Cook. The controversy broke last week, when Thomas Cook made its prices public. The Evening Standard quotes a package for three nights at the Hyatt Regency with a face value of £1,740 being resold on for £6,499.

This is the latest in a series of criticisms levelled against LOCOG over their plans for the Games’ infrastructure, most recently over their plans for creating jobs in the communities around the 2012 Grounds. More to follow…

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14 Reasons for Opposing the Sochi 2014 Olympics

The Sochi Olympics of 2014 will be the 150th commemorative year of the Circassian Genocide. Choosing Sochi as the site of the Winter Olympics, in such an auspicious year for the Russians, represents the perpetual celebration of Imperial Russia’s oppression and systematic murder of the Circassian People. Building the Olympic Village over the mass graves of the victims symbolizes the virtual erasing of this atrocity! 

14 Reasons for Opposing Sochi 2014

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