A former Victorian workhouse and mental hospital was our subject for a East End-themed backyard bootcamp. The site is Britain’s first urban Community Land Trust, a non-profit community-owned organisation designed to provide permanently affordable housing to residents of Bow.
A group of us, including prospective applicants to the Year Here fellowship, toured the site of the East London Community Land Trust and interviewed local residents to consider a question: How can we use the creative and cultural capital of the Community Land Trust to tackle local unemployment? We also heard from Dave Smith, Senior Housing Organiser for Citizens UK, who spearheaded the campaign to bring the site into community ownership as part of the Olympic legacy, and were kindly hosted by the Young Foundation, which has a proud legacy of community development work in the East End.
We considered East London’s status as a hub of creativity and how, often, its cultural and creative riches are not equally shared with local residents. Great examples of incomers using their creativity to tackle local issues, like literacy projects Hackney Pirates and the Ministry of Stories, are sadly still few and far between.
We got out onto the streets of Bow to interview local residents, including a man with a cage full of birds and a conspiracy theorist who claimed that the site was being used for illegal experiments on Eastern European men (don’t worry, we’ve checked the veracity of his claims and nothing untoward has been going on!). After a colourful brainstorming session at The Young Foundation, the final ideas were presented to the East London CLT’s Head of Interim Use, Kate MacTiernan, and the Chief Executive of Fair Pensions, Catherine Howarth. They included a mentoring programme to bring local lads together with city boys through 5-a-side football, a novel skills swapping event format, and It Stays Here, a volunteer-led mental health service.
The reworked St Clements site will certainly bring affordable housing to Bow – and we’ll all be eagerly watching to see whether the CLT can also use the site, and the wonderful range of partners who are interested in supporting its regeneration, to create community cohesion and sustainable employment opportunities for the people of Bow.
For more information, visit: www.eastlondonclt.co.uk.