Silwood Video Archive Project Update

Participatory Archive Video Project exploring the regeneration of Silwood Estate, Lewisham


In March we have wrapped up the final stages of our Digitally Democratising Archives project, funded by the National Lottery and The Audience Agency. 

The aim of the project was to open the Silwood archive, for the first time since filming began, and to invite the Silwood community to watch, comment on, and hopefully begin a participatory editing process which will draw out the story(ies) of Silwood.

Our project has gone largely as planned. All the aspects of workshops that we envisioned have happened. Participants have enjoyed watching and discussing the archive. Rather than stopping after 6 workshops we decided to maximise momentum by running a workshop every week for the duration of the project.

Online archive based participatory video workshops


Exploring the Archive

From the Silwood Archive – Residents shooting on Silwood Estate during a workshop with Spectacle

As part of this project we digitised and uploaded 392 clips from the Silwood archive. These clips covered a variety of themes including: the destruction of the estate, location shots of buildings which no longer exist, planning meetings which showcased spaces and buildings which were never built, promises made and not fulfilled, the desire for a youth centre and community centre, fly tipping, poems, and interviews with former residents. 

Archive based participatory video, missing sculpture on Silwood Estate in Lewisham and Southwark

As part of the project Spectacle published a short edited video on the theme of the missing statue Neighbourly Encounters. This statue was made by the artist Uli Nimptsch and specially commissioned for the estate.This short film brings together interviews of the model for the statue, bringing a historian on to the estate to discuss the missing statue, and the community’s memories of the statue itself. It continues to be unclear when and why the statue was removed, and where it is now. 

Community Engagement 

This project had three levels of potential engagement. The most shallow level was through likes, views, clicks, engagement on social media, or blog posts. We regularly shared public updates about the project, and occasionally posted public edited clips or videos from the archive. At this level Spectacle’s posts on Facebook about the DDA project reached 1660 individuals and had a total of 456 engagements. This is an average of 138 reached, and 38 engagements per post. Public videos received a total of 427 views on Youtube. 

Youtube playlist of videos concerning Lewisham and Southwark Silwood Estate residents

The second level of engagement was through subscription. Each blog post offered the opportunity to subscribe to a mailing list to access the archive. 26 unique participants subscribed and were given access to the 392 never before seen clips from the Silwood Archive that were uploaded during the project. Between them these 26 participants generated 1,354 views of private vimeo videos from the Silwood archive. 

The third and deepest level of engagement was through participation in workshops to view, discuss, and make selections from the archive. A total of 10 participants participated in 17 workshops over the course of 4 months. 

A view of a visit to the Silwood Video Archive page

We received very positive feedback from participants. Participants remarked that they felt this archive was “vital to the history of their community.” There was great enthusiasm to share the archive with new or younger community members who would not be aware of the history of the estate. 

Spectacle Skills 

This project has been a useful opportunity to test and develop our cataloguing, digitising workflows and our archive-based participatory workshop model. 

We developed our archive-based participatory model to run online archive-based workshops using a variety of platforms, and found ways to teach participants to use these platforms effectively. Through this process we have developed our workflows and explored the best use of accessible digital tools. 

Through this process we have developed workflows to transfer archive footage from tape and other legacy formats (MiniDV, DVCam, DVDs) to digital, to be uploaded to online platforms. 

Image from the archive – residents edit footage shot in participatory video workshops

We have developed practices for platform sharing of video archives. We have learned how to organise clips so that the archive is easier to share with participants, and explored how to balance file-naming systems for archiving versus user-friendly labelling. 

Expanding the Archive 

Spectacle visited the Silwood estate on Monday the 29th of December and filmed locations and activities including ongoing construction, fly-tipping, the location where the youth club bus arrives, the new community garden, and general location shots around the streets of the estate. 

Adding to the archive – going back to shoot location views with Silwood Estate residents

This footage will be added to the archive as part of the ongoing documentation of the Silwood estate for the past 20 years during the regeneration of the area. 

Plans to Continue the Programme 

We plan to continue working with the Silwood community on the archive. We have been involved with the Silwood community for over 20 years, and that relationship is one we are eager to continue. 

A view of the Shard from Silwood Estate

Further, this experience has given us confidence to push forward and expand the model. We are eager to use this archive-based participatory model to explore some of our other archives, and the skills gained in this project are easily transferable. We are keen to continue running archive-based participatory workshops with various communities drawing on our numerous other video archives.

The Silwood Archive project is supported by The Audience Agency’s Digitally Democratising Archives project thanks to funding from DCMS and the National Lottery, as part of The National Lottery Heritage Fund’s, Digital Skills for Heritage initiative.

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Please attribute as: “Silwood Archive Project (2022) by Spectacle Media CIC supported by The National Lottery Heritage Fund, licensed under CC BY 40

The loss of a British Institution looms

An important symbol of South London and a key feature of the city’s skyline, the Battersea Power Station, has been left to decay for more than twenty years. Created by Gilbert Scott in 1935, the building has slowly rotted away after both station’s A and B were  decommissioned in 1975 and 1983 respectively. The much-loved monument is listed on the English Heritage’s “Buildings at Risk” register.

For full article please click here.

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See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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Wanstead Flats: Green space to Olympic holding cells?

Wanstead Flats: A vast, open grassland in Epping Forest, east London, surrounded by residential areas: This is where the Metropolitan Police plans to site an operational centre for the 2012 Olympics. On 5th September 2010, about 350 people attended a Mass Community Picnic on Wanstead Flats, demonstrating their opposition to the police’s proposal.

Official statements by the City of London, responsible for Epping Forest, have stated it will be a police briefing centre in the southwestern part of the Flats for a period of three months. However, subsequent conversations with officials have revealed that the site, covering three hectares, will seemingly be used for police deployment, and include a feeding station and stabling for police horses and also holding cells. Since those plans became public in June, local residents have started to organise their protest in order to preserve the open green space. Wanstead Flats are protected by the Epping Forest Act, 1878 which inhibits any use other than for recreation and public enjoyment and does not allow the erection of permanent structures. It is feared that the police’s proposal will set a precedent for further developments on the Flats in the near future. The fact that the Epping Forest Act has to be adapted in order to legalize the planned project is strengthening these apprehensions. These and other critical issues such as lack of public consultation, concerns about traffic and accessibility were discussed by local residents during the event on 5th September with Paul Thomson, Superintendent of Epping Forest. Two similar temporary police centres are to be erected for the Olympic Games, one in Hackney and another in Greenwich.

The next Local Residents’ Public Meeting of the Save Wanstead Flats Campaign will take place on Wednesday 6th October 2010, 7pm, at Durning Hall Community Centre, Earlham Grove, Forest Gate E7 9AB. For further information see

Wanstead Flats is one of many green sites that the “Greenest Olympics” will affect.

Sign the Petition now!

This is one of many green sites that the “Greenest Olympics” will destroy also see

Park to be tarmaced for Olympics

Basildon is latest signing to Disgruntled First XI

Greenwich Park, a centre for Equestrian Excellence? Perhaps not

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See our Olympics project pages for more information and videos.

Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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Mass Picnic To Save Wanstead Flats 5th September

The “Save Wanstead Flats Campaign” invite all of us to protest with a picnic on Sunday 5th September.

All welcome 1pm on the spot to the west of Centre Road where the police want to site their Olympic operations base in 2012. Ever since over 250 people attended a packed public meeting in July, residents living near Wanstead Flats have been demanding answers about plans by the City of London Corporation to allow the Metropolitan Police to base its Olympics operational centre on the Flats in 2012. In order to push this proposal through, the Corporation would need to amend an Act of Parliament that has protected Wanstead Flats from enclosure and development for well over a century.

Local people want to know why the proposed site for this police base, west of Centre Road, has been chosen, how that decision was made and why the Olympic stadium site itself cannot be used. There has been no consultation, even though the plans involve locating a fenced, high-security compound – with buildings, parking areas, stables and apparently even police holding cells – for at least 120 days and so close to residential neighbourhoods.

The Save Wanstead Flats campaign is organised by local people and on Sunday 5 September, we’d like to invite you to show your opposition to the City of London Corporation’s plans by joining us for a picnic – occupying the very spot where the police operations base would be constructed.  FLYER MAP


Sign the Petition now!

This is one of many green sites that the “Greenest Olympics” will destroy also see

Park to be tarmaced for Olympics

Basildon is latest signing to Disgruntled First XI

Hackney Marshes

London 2012 Equestrian Events

Click London Olympics for more blogs

See our Olympics project pages for more information and videos.

Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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