As part of our on-going Silwood Archive project, Spectacle has been hosting weekly meetings of the Silwood Video Group (SVG). Often as SVG watches archive footage together themes emerge. In the past month these have included: youth clubs, community centres, fly-tipping, and the lack of a community centre, youth facilities, green space and communal areas on the estate.
The group wanted to film some locations to accompany the themes that had been coming up in the meetings. 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.
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.
All are welcome to join our Silwood Video Group – watch original archive – help select material for publishing-get involved in filming.
We are delighted to announce that this month we will be launching the SILWOOD VIDEO ARCHIVE PROJECT, an archive-based participatory film project.
This pioneering project will: digitise and upload archive video filmed with the Silwood Video Group for the public to watch; encourage community viewing and tagging; run a short series of participatory editing workshops for up to 20 participants; and produce a co-authored short film using Silwood archive footage.
Spectacle has 40 years experience in community-led filmmaking developing collaborative documentaries and participatory video methods. Spectacle’s Silwood archive has been created over 20 years of collaborative filming and video making at the Silwood estate on the border of Lewisham and Southwark in Southeast London.
For news and updates on the project – SIGN UP HERE, or email firstname.lastname@example.org.
Background: Spectacle and Silwood
In 2000 Spectacle’s founder Mark Saunders ran participatory workshops on the Silwood Estate in southeast London. He had been asked to work with residents for a few weeks – teaching them how to shoot video and maybe making a short film as part of the planned regeneration work in the area.
After a few months, the funding ended, but Spectacle never left. For twenty years the Silwood Community Video Group has been filming in and around the Silwood Estate, documenting daily life and changes created by regeneration.
The relationship between Spectacle and Silwood resulted in several short films, web clips for the Channel 4 series Unteachables, an ICA exhibition, as well as further exhibitions at the BOZAR – Centre for Fine Arts in Brussels. This work has been funded by numerous grants, including the INTERREG Apango project, and has brought skill training, jobs, and investment to the Silwood Community.
In 20 years, Spectacle has run hundreds of video workshops for participants aged from 8-80 from a wide range of backgrounds to tell their own stories. In that time Silwood Estate has undergone immense changes. Brutalist estate buildings have been razed, the community that lived there was scattered to other parts of London, and for those that remained the promises made to maintain community facilities have not been fulfilled. Filming continued every year until the pandemic hit in 2020.
The Archive Project
Understandably, the incredible volume of filming has generated a tremendous video archive – over 300 hours which Spectacle maintains.
With the support of the Audience Agency, we use online participatory editing tools to open this archive. We will invite the Silwood community to watch, comment on, and begin a participatory editing process which will draw out the story(ies) of Silwood.
This initial project will have three stages.
Spectacle will review the archive, edit selections, upload the archive to Vimeo. We will reach out through networks to the Silwood Community who will engage in tagging and providing metadata for the video archive. Spectacle will analyse this collection of notes, views, opinions, and responses to the archive footage.
After reviewing the community response, Spectacle will convene a group of up to 20 interested community members to participate in a series of collaborative editing workshops. During 6 workshops participants will develop a short (30 minute) film or several short (5 minute) film clips from the archive through a process of viewing, discussing, and suggesting edits. Between each session, Spectacle will implement the participants’ editing suggestions.
If the participants choose, there is the possibility of conducting Zoom interviews to collect oral histories and add current perspective on the material they are working with.
Once the participants have created the rough cut of the film, Spectacle will polish the material with a final professional edit including sound design, graphics, and adding any further images that might be needed. Stage three will culminate in a screening of the film for the community.
We are very excited that this project will allow us to make the Silwood archive accessible to the community for the first time and we envision it will enrich and sustain this 20 year collaboration.
Further, we hope that this project will be a springboard for the community and Spectacle to attract future funding to develop the project further both by exploring the archive in more depth but also running filming workshops inspired by the archives.
At the largest scale, we imagine that this project could serve as a reproducible pilot for the many UK communities who have experienced bombing, “slum clearance”, neglect and decline of 60s Brutalist housing estates, large scale decanting, dispersal, demolition and regeneration.
If you want to get involved SIGN UP HERE or email email@example.com
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.
Spectacle has a long history of establishing and supporting participatory community media workshops and a large number of our productions have adopted participatory video (PV) techniques and ethos, resulting in an excellent track record of high quality, award-winning TV documentaries, short films and powerful campaigning videos. We are happy to inform everyone interested in applying a participatory media approach into their community based projects, that it is now possible to share Spectacle’s experience taking part in our Participatory Video Workshop (PVW).
Spectacle has made extensive use of Participatory Video as a successful strategy to involve communities in production processes, allowing people to produce knowledge about themselves rather than being represented – and often misrepresented – by outsiders.
Recently one of the films that Spectacle produced through participatory techniques has been re-screened on the Pepys Estate: “Poverty and the Media: the tower”. The film shows the way in which local residents have felt misrepresented by the BBC ’s program The Tower: A Tale of Two Cities. The BBC’s program intended to document the transformation of the Lewisham council estate into a chic development and the alleged clash between rich newcomers and poor long term residents. Spectacle, was commissioned by the Rowntree Foundation to develop a participatory video project in the Pepys and other estates in the area: “Poverty and participation in the Media“. At the time the BBC project begun, Spectacle was already organizing video workshops that focused specifically on the way mainstream media (mis)represent poverty. In our film Pepys residents have filmed each other while commenting on the effects the BBC’s program had on their lives. Spectacle’s “Poverty and the media: the Tower” illustrates the advantages of a participatory approach, highlighting the local dynamics in a way that is factually accurate and respectful of people’s feelings, intentions and views on the world they experience.
Following the very positive feedbacks from residents and in order to meet the growing demand from community based researchers to be trained to lead participatory projects, we are happy to inform you that we are now offering a Participatory Video Workshop (PVW). Our PVW is addressed to social workers, NGOs’ and charity organization’s staff that are engaged in community development and empowerment, artists and, in general, anyone who wants to integrate participatory methods in their own projects. Based on our long experience, the PVW will provide you with practical and transferrable knowledge on video techniques, and train you on how to engage your stakeholders in participatory productions.
The PVW is designed as 3 day immersive experience that will allow you to use participatory methods in documentation, evaluation and research. If you and your staff are particularly interested in specific topics, we are happy to bring our workshop to you and tailor it to your specific needs.
Please, find here our workshop description or get in touch for further information.
Residents visiting the building site of their promised Community Centre
Dear Richard Southall,
I am writing on behalf of residents and Lewington Centre users.
Re your letter 20th Sept 2012 distributed to Silwood residents:
1- Was this letter circulated to all Silwood residents? If not why not?
2- Can you outline the process and mechanisms by which you ” regularly consult with residents” ?
3- How did the residents identify the priorities you cite and how many responded?
4- How and when are you going to “make available opportunities for local people to give us their views about our services”?
5- Does the new use of the Lewington Centre comply with the funding agreements between L&Q and Lewisham Council?
6- Does the new use of the Lewington Centre comply with the funding agreements between L&Q and Southwark Council?
7- Please can you forward Lewington Centre business plan and accounts for years 2010/11 and 2011/12
8- The SIlwood Community Centre Business Plan April 09-Aug 09 shows profits of £65,244 ( 08/09) 47,366 (09/10). Where do these profits go?
9- The income from the 25 flats above the Lewington Centre is meant to go towards community use of the centre. Is this the case?
10- When did L&Q agree with BEC re use of the Lewington Centre? Please can we see a contract.
We would appreciate a written response to these questions.
I thank you in advance for your prompt response.
Dear Mr Saunders
Re: The Lewington Centre, 9 Eugenia Road SE16 2RU
I write in response to the issues raised in your email of 7 November 2012 the contents of which are noted. I have structured my response to address each of the ten separate issues raised.
1. The letter dated 20 September 2012 was hand delivered to all residents (irrespective of Landlord or tenure) living on the estate. In addition to this the letter was also delivered to those Southwark homes located in St Helena Road adjacent to the centre.
2. L&Q undertakes, through an independent market research company monthly resident satisfaction surveys designed to test satisfaction with existing services and opportunities for residents to express their personal priorities. This information helps to inform our forward strategies. These randomly selected candidates can number up to 570 surveys each month.
3. Through the independent surveys described in two above.
4. In addition to the process previously described we undertake localised surveys at L&Q organised events and projects. Those engaging in these activities are given an opportunity to complete a feedback form that also asks them to identify their individual priorities. This information also helps to shape our future strategies.
5. Lewisham are satisfied with arrangements at the centre.
6. There are no outstanding financial agreements between L&Q and Southwark in relation to the centre.
7. These will be made available, on request from London Borough of Lewisham.
8. All generated income supports the operational upkeep of the centre and on-going service delivery.
9. As above
10. BEC have rented space at the centre since October 2011. It is not appropriate to disclose contractual details to a third party.
I hope the above is of assistance to you and I appreciate your concerns surrounding the running and use of the Lewington Centre, however I can assure you that this centre is run completely in line with our policies and procedures and any agreements we have with third parties.
Please leave a comment if you have any remarks, further questions or suggestions regarding this issue.
Residents of the Silwood Estate, Rotherhithe, were promised that when the estate was “regenerated” their existing and community managed community centre and other facilities would be replaced with a better purpose community centre- later called the Lewington Centre.
London and Quadrant received grant of £3,334,653.00 of Section 106 money, of which £1,964,728 was to build the community centre- it also included £2,240,000 SRB money to build new flats above the main hall that would provide the community with a constant rent revenue stream of £32,500 p.a. that was to go towards community capacity building.
However since it opened in April 2009 local residents have struggled to get access. The rents are too high for the Tenants and Residents groups to use it for office space. The hall is either inappropriate or unaffordable for most community uses.
Now the “owners” London and Quadrant, without any meaningful consultation with residents, have let out the centre to Bede Educational College and the residents are almost complete excluded. There appears to be no L&Q staff based there.
In order to find out what is going on it has been necessary to make a Freedom of Information request to Lewisham Council see below.
Re: Freedom of Information Act 2000
Reference No: 197880
Thank you for your recent request. We apologise for the delay responding.
We enclose the following information.
Regarding the Lewington Centre and the flats above please can you provide
the following information and documents:
Documents relating to Section 106 agreements with L&Q
Section 106 Agreements once signed are public documents and can be viewed
either at the Council offices or via the Council’s website.
Below is a link to the Section 106 Agreement we believe you are interested
in. That agreement relates to Silwood Phase I and was signed on the 23
Documents relating to L&Q’s commitments to funding and services provided
for the community centre
Please see attached report.
Details of any funding from Lewisham council to the centre and the terms
and conditions of this funding.
Please see attached.
L&Qs financial reports and business plans for the use of the Lewington
Centre since it was opened.
Please see attached report.
We hope you find this information helpful.
You have a right of appeal against this response. If you wish to appeal
you must do so in writing to the Corporate Information Manager at the
Corporate Information Team
London Borough of Lewisham
1^st Flr, Town Hall Chambers,
London, SE6 4RY
Corporate Information Team
Tel: 020 8314 6848
Before the site of what would become the Silwood Estate was developed in the late 19th century, The St. Helena Tavern and Tea Gardens were a centre of entertainment and recreation for working class Londoners and the surrounding rural communities. Tea gardens were places in which people could get away from the sights and smells of urban London and St. Helena’s provided lawns, ponds, trees, statues and two Chinese pavilions. At the time it was surrounded by hay fields and a range of hills that formed from east to west.
As seen on the map below from 1868, the gardens were adjacent to what was known as a ‘Rope Walk.’ These long lanes were used for stretching out hundreds of metres of rope fibre in order for them to be twisted (or ‘layed‘) into strong, functional rope for use on the Docks.
St Helena Tavern and Tea Gardens and Rope Walk - 1868
On this map from 1914, (around 30 years after the demolition of the St. Helena Tavern and Gardens,) the site has been developed into what is now part of the Silwood Estate. However on the west end of St. Helena Road, part of the rope walk still exists and can still be viewed to this day.
Silwood Estate 1914
Silwood related books, maps, DVDs and prints can all be found and purchased from Spectacle’s Shop.
Spectacle’s latest inter-generational film workshop took place at the Silverlock Center on bank holiday Monday and saw children and adults from the surrounding communities come together to learn about and discuss the history and social issues of the local area. Through workshops they were enabled to film one another in an interview style regarding their feelings concerning the estate and how it has changed within their life-times.
Children interviewing a parent at the workshop
Thanks to all who attended for their interest, support and contribution to what was an insightful and rewarding day.
You can support our work by ordering Silwood related books, maps, dvds and prints from Spectacle’s Shop.
Based on residents’ concerns about the mysterious and unspecified “soil contamination” of the back gardens of dwellings in phase 3A of the Silwood estate we put together our own “Frequently asked Questions” and put them to Higgins, the contractor:
9th July 2010
Re: Removal of topsoil on Silwood Estate SE16
Given the confusion among residents over this issue, we are contacting you formally to ask several questions about the topsoil, the contamination, and the ongoing digging works. Our questions are:
From where was the topsoil currently being removed brought?
Have soil tests been conducted on the contaminated soil, and if so, what did the results of these tests reveal?
What are the health consequences related to this soil contamination?
How is any contamination thought to have arisen?
For how long has Higgins Construction known about any contamination present in the topsoil?
Will any contamination have affected the fruit and vegetables grown in some residents’ gardens in such a way as might adversely affect the health of anyone who might eat them?
On what basis was the £250 compensation for each affected garden calculated?
How long will these works (removing contaminated topsoil, replacing it with new topsoil, and repairing residents’ gardens) take?
How much will these works (removing contaminated topsoil, replacing it with new topsoil, and repairing residents’ gardens) cost?
In addition, we were informed during a conversation on Silwood Estate with a Higgins Construction employee that some paperwork related to the contaminated topsoil had been lost. We would therefore also like to know:
Of what nature was this lost paperwork?
How was this paperwork lost?
If this lost paperwork was in connection with the contamination of the topsoil, why is the issue only being addressed now, several years after the topsoil was bought and laid in residents’ gardens?
As I am sure you will agree, it is manifestly in the public interest to have these question answered, since any environmental contamination constitutes a matter of public health and safety.
At first there was silence, we sent the letter again and then we got a phone call from Keith Briggs Director for Preconstruction at Higgins Construction PLC. He wanted to know if we were an “elected representative body ” because if the Silwood Video Group were not elected Higgins did not need to answer our questions. I asked him to put his response in writing, here is an edited version below:
[…] As we established in our [phone] discussion your organisation is not an elected representative body to speak on behalf of the residents […]
It is not appropriate for Higgins Construction PLC to enter into discussion with any party not forming part of our contractual obligation.
In other words Higgins was refusing to answer the questions, many of which only they could answer, on the spurious grounds that only an elected body was entitled to ask questions.
Thank you for your reply.I understand that Higgins are refusing to answer our legitimate questions regarding the soil contamination at the Silwood. In a democracy residents do not need to ask questions via an elected body. Indeed there is no such elected body on the estate. To use this as grounds for refusing to answer legitimate questions goes against accepted notions of freedom of speech and accountability.
I would like to draw your attention to your own website:
When it comes to Corporate Social Responsibility (CSR), Higgins believes in going beyond the minimum requirements. [….] we have developed a CSR policy that’s based on 6 core principles:
1 Environment – taking responsibility for the mark we make on the environment
If Keith had not been so keen to jump on the fact that the Silwood Video Group was not an elected representative body I could have told him that almost uniquely I was in fact democratically elected by resident members as Chair of the SVG. But he thought he had his excuse to ignore us and got off the phone in haste.
As Higgins suggested we did write to the two Registered Social Landlords (RSLs) London and Quadrant and Presentation (now part of Notting Hill Housing Association ). We await their reply…
Those few residents who have now had their gardens put back as they were have received their compensation cheques for £250, interestingly not from the RSLs but from Higgins.
Meanwhile residents sweat it out (indoors) worrying about their health.