Sensing the City: Young People and Regeneration in London
Exploring the role of sensorial methods in activating just regenerations in London
15 September 2021
Cities are endlessly changing, but who is change for? How do young people feel about regeneration of their neighbourhoods? How can we ensure young residents have a voice - and are heard - in critical planning decisions that affect their lives and their communities?
In 2020, The Bartlett Development Planning Unit’s Barbara Lipietz and community organisations Pempeople and The Ubele Initiative came together to explore new methods of public voicing for young people. The result was a series of on-line, open-call participatory workshops with young people from Peckham and Brixton. Facilitated by poet and performance artist Kat François and interdisciplinary media artist Daniel Oduntan, the sessions explored notions of belonging, change and displacement, race, age and labelling, Covid lockdowns and mental health, voicelessness and the importance of active listening when designing tools to empower. Participants experimented with poetry, spoken word, and mobile filmmaking, inside and outside the workshops.
The present web page acts as a living repository of outputs from the experimental collaboration, and, for partners, a site of ongoing experimentation and discussion on the role of of creative expression in amplifying the voice of young people in community-led approaches to regeneration-as-planning in London.
Peckham, the Old Kent Road and Brixton, like other areas in London, have experienced rapid change over the last 10-15 years. Ongoing regeneration and new planning proposals mean that radical change is likely to remain a defining feature for these neighbourhoods, that have long held particular significance for the African and Caribbean communities and black history in London. What is the place for young adults to shape the future of these neighbourhoods?
Young people are frequently absent from formal planning consultations that affect their lives, ignored in official processes, or self-excluding from procedures they do not trust. This is particularly true in areas of rapid generation where the speed of change in housing profile and land use often leaves young people with difficult decisions on how best to adapt, as their communities fragment. How can they avoid exclusion from emerging entrepreneurial and creative spaces, or from newly mooted community, health, and support services in their evolving neighbourhood?
Against this backdrop, community outreach organisations Pempeople and The Ubele Initiative are working with young residents to retain and/or develop community spaces that resist this trend (e.g. the Livesey Exchange in Peckham/Old Kent Road, and the Lloyd Leon Community centre, aka the Dominos Club, in Brixton).
- The project
Sensing the City: Young People and Regeneration in London is an experimental collaborative project between The Bartlett Development Planning Unit’s Barbara Lipietz, Pempeople and The Ubele Initiative to explore the role of creative expression in amplifying the voice of young adults in community-led approaches to planning in London. Adjusted to COVID-19 lockdown restrictions, the project facilitated online discussions between young people from Brixton and Peckham and explored ‘owned’ media – spoken word, film, photography – as modes of shared expression, and means of speaking truth to power, on their own terms.
Conversations and creative outputs, facilitated by poet Kat François and multi-media artist Daniel Oduntan, speak of belonging and loss, the ambiguities of and unequal abilities to cope with regeneration, displacement and community erasure. Race, age and labelling hover over shared experiences of regeneration, as is multi-dimensional trauma. The frustration of enduring voicelessness – or rather, of repeatedly being ‘unheard’ - is palpable. But so is a thirst for co-creating safe and caring neighbourhoods, where ‘people like us’ can thrive.
Sensing the City: Young People and Regeneration in London is an experimental collaborative project between The Bartlett’s Development Planning Unit: Dr. Barbara Lipietz- PI; Pempeople; The Ubele Initiative; poet and performance artist Kat François; interdisciplinary media artist Daniel Oduntan; and Esta Orchard.
Poems and footage contributions from (and with gratitude to): Tyreece Asamoa, Romey Skye, Eliseo, Faruq Hashi, Jaffar Aly, Kelsea Delatango @_delatango, Sofia Whilby, Mattia Guarnera, Alka Suralia @alkacin0, Shay casonova @shaycasonova and Hammed Oyefuwa @hammed_oy
Graphics: Ottavia Pasta.
Funding: UCL’s Performance Lab, UCL Culture and The Bartlett’s Development Planning Unit.