Londoner’s Making London – stories from grassroots projects

panel of five people sitting at front of a room talking

Londoner’s Making London – stories from grassroots projects

Last month saw a launch event for Jan Kattein’s book on ‘Londoner’s Making London: Transforming Neighbourhoods’, celebrating people who have made things happen at a grassroots level across London.

There are nine stories in total and it’s hoped that by sharing them others will feel inspired to start something in their community as a way of doing things differently.

The launch brought four of the stories to life with the interviewees sharing what they had learnt, tips for others and how they can now reflect on the projects they created.

The projects we heard about were:

  • The Skip Garden (by Global Generation who have also established the Paper Garden), King’s Cross – “the garden of a thousand hands” who created an environment to connect people with nature and each other
  • Thornhill Primary School, Islington – developed a library building, a kids’ run and much more
  • African Street Style Festival, Shoreditch – a festival for local residents to take part in a cultural event in an informal way
  • Church Grove, Lewisham – creating a neighbourhood that embraces low energy design, where a group of 50ish residents formed a group to shape the development with little experience of managing assets or housing projects who are keen to share their knowledge

The impact

  • The Skip Garden has signed a 999 year lease on a peppercorn rent on edge of King’s Cross, believed to the first time this type of lease has been granted
  • Good schools make good communities. Thornhill’s projects expanded across Islington then London and now Run Kids Run is a registered charity operating across the UK as well the school establishing The Thornhill Foundation
  • In Shoreditch, people have been encouraged to ask ‘who streets and roads are for’ to remove the assumption that things stay the same and created demand for people to take ownership of their street
  • Church Grove is now part of a Community Land Trust and continues to remain independent and to be volunteer run

To ponder

  • How can we speed up the process of making local projects happen?
  • How can we gain access to more spaces for temporary use where we can continue to test ideas and uses?
  • How can top down funding with its strict output model be changed to be more flexible?

From our perspective, we’re looking forward to reading the book (which includes beautiful images of the people and projects) to discover the stories not featured at the launch.

There is a real need to keep sharing stories so people who think it’s too difficult to do projects like these in their local community have the confidence to give it a go and be supported by others.

When we set-up and ran a CIC, we learnt from other groups who ran projects across the borough and we kept talking to them and then shared what we learnt with anyone who asked for a long time afterwards.

This continual learning and experience sharing is the way to speed things up but the funding needs to align with this nimble, grassroots approach to make it easier.

Londoner’s Making London: Transforming Neighbourhoods by Jan Kattein is out now.

This is one of many tours which The London Society offers each to get behind the scenes in key buildings or locations across the capital. Diane is a trustee of the society.