UCL Urban Laboratory


SE1 Stories: Community action in a London neighbourhood

19 January 2023–08 March 2023, 10:30 am–8:00 pm

Se1 Stories

The inaugural exhibition at UCL Urban Room

Event Information

Open to









UCL Urban Room
1 Pool Street
E20 2AF

The exhibition has been created from a collection of thousands of photographs, and archives including the SE1 Newspaper publication produced from 1975-1991.

After travelling around London, the Urban Room edition of SE1 Stories includes new photographs, archives, and sound components. The exhibition showcases historical fights for housing, social services, and residents’ rights with meaningful resonance for contemporary activism in East London. The exhibition will grow during its six-week stay at the new UCL Urban Room in the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park, Stratford.

Tickets are not required to visit the exhibition, but please register for a free ticket for the below events:

  • Exhibition opening: 19 January, 17:30-1900
  • Public History Open Day: 27 January, 10:00-16:00 - Academics and students are invited to learn about the role of historians as activists, how to work with archives and what digitisation formats can be used to document social histories. Attendees can also get a first look at the new Memory Bike – a bicycle-mounted recording and listening station and digital acoustic archive. This is a drop-in event, so feel free to come anytime between 10am – 2pm.
  • Archiving Activism Workshop: 7 February, 14:00 - 17:00 - East London activists, artists and UCL students are invited to work with the SE1 archive and learn about how to document and catalogue images, paper-based materials, audio files and creative histories.
  • Community Action from SE1 to E20: : 8 March, 17:00 - 20:00 - An intergenerational dialogue event with SE1 and East London activists to discuss direct action and creative interventions across time and space. Speakers will discuss processes of direct action to achieve change and how different eras of activism require different approaches. Artists, documentarians and archivists will then discuss the role of creatives in social movements. Discussions 5-7pm. Reception to follow.

If you are interested in a special guided tour, have a large group who would like to visit or a school group, then please email urbanroom@ucl.ac.uk

About the exhibition

The exhibition features an extraordinary period of community action in the 1970s and 80s in Blackfriars, Waterloo and North Southwark along London’s South Bank. For many it was a fight for survival as businesses moved out and land was earmarked for office development leaving isolated communities struggling to maintain their way of life. It was a period of huge empowerment for local residents. Campaigns, protests, and direct action were the tools to force local authorities and developers to recognise the community’s needs. Estate tenants formed Associations to negotiate with their landlords and community groups flourished.

UCL Urban Room

Located in Stratford at the UCL's campus in East London, the Urban Room is an experimental exhibition space for students, researchers, artists, and community members. Based on the idea of an ‘urban room’ as a forum for community-driven debate and dialogue, the UCL Urban Room brings together academic research and lived experiences of city residents to inspire meaningful education for our students and visitors. Users of the Urban Room are invited to join a dynamic network of practice focused on issues of global urbanism, heritage, arts, and social history. The space is equipped with oral history recording and archiving capabilities through its initiative of a Memory Workshop. Together, the Urban Room and Memory Workshop are supported by The Bartlett Faculty of the Built Environment and the School for Creative and Cultural Industries at UCL (University College London).

SE1 Stories

SE1 Stories is an umbrella group of people who were active in the campaigns in the 1970s and 80s. The group came together in 2019 when thousands of photographs were discovered in the archives of Southwark and Lambeth councils. Many were taken by members of the group for SE1 Newspaper. Many more come from the innovative Blackfriars Photography Project that gave people the equipment and skills to be photographers.

SE1 Stories acknowledges the support and assistance of the following without whom this exhibition would not have been possible:

  • Southwark Council’s Blackfriars Stories initiative (main funding) Jack Carter Architects (exhibition design)
  • Unit 22 Modelmakers (exhibition stands) Blackfriars Settlement
  • Southwark Archives
  • Lambeth Archives
  • UCL, UCL Urban Laboratory and UCL School for the Creative and Cultural Industries