Seldom Heard Voices
- By Nathan Lewis
The second Bermondsey & Rotherhithe CAN meeting in 2017 aimed to look at seldom heard communities in Bermondsey & Rotherhithe, where they feel included in the local area, and what matters to them. All the attendees were residents who had 12-50+ years of experience living in the local area, and the differences they believe exist between Bermondsey and Rotherhithe.
As you might imagine - this means that a lot was talked about.
- Nathan Lewis - Community Southwark
- Robert Jamieson - Community Southwark
- Bridget Galloway - Southwark Council
- Emmanuel Nwosu - Playback Drama
- Denis McMillan - Poise Tennis Championships
- Peter Bayfoo - South London Mission
- Fran Jones - London Bubble Theatre
Updates from the previous meeting
Bridget Galloway, explained her role in the council, and how she supports individuals within the Bermondsey and Rotherhithe Community Council Area. One of the main areas she is looking to improve on is the experience of going to a Bermondsey & Rotherhithe Community Council Meeting.
The themes for the meeting come all originate from the community. There is a plan for one meeting to take place on Saturday, so that the Community Council is accessible to others. Engagement with young people has been problematic, and so ideas and support in changing this are welcome.
Arabian Nights in full flow...
Many of the experiences that shaped residents experience of Bermondsey included a feeling of togetherness, and the solidarity in supporting each other as a community whilst feeling excluded, or isolated oneself from the wider community.
Discussion turned to the changes and increase in diversity. One attendee recalled growing up in the 80s and 90s feeling that Bermondsey was an isolated enclave that rejected outsiders, but anyone who was inside this area, was a part of the local ‘family’.
For others, they believed that the area has historically been under-supported by the council, and that individuals look to sort out problems in the community internally. It was noted that this may be a factor in some people remaining fixed in their area, as ‘they don’t want to travel too far’. One attendee spoke about the youth gang culture that they had to navigate growing up in the area, and that young people are detached from Southwark Council due to mistrust of the council and authority.
Some of the responses included:
“Getting chased by three boys down Spa Road, who had a baseball bat”
“Always having community as neighbours”
“Feeling isolated from the rest of London.”
“A defensive enclave that has a unique take on community.”
The majority of the responses maintained that there is a terrific sense of community within Bermondsey and Rotherhithe, and that in terms of scenery and activities it is a great place to live. However, there were concerns around crime, the lack of information about what is going on in the borough, and the growing house prices that are preventing local people from being able to buy and live in their local area. Some of the responses included:
“There is a sense of community, especially with the estate areas.”
“There is considerate amount of crime in the area. ”
“Lack of access to information that will benefit local resident e.g. function of a TRA.”
“Currently resistant to the change that has happened across the rest of the borough. ”
“Communication lacking between council and community.”
“Lots of ‘playing politics’ whilst the real issues in the area are not being solved.”
“Bermondsey is not aware of the importance of the power of sport to create change in an area.”
“It’s a metropolitan area.”
“People are being priced out of living in the area.”
Playback Drama is an arts organisation that uses drama to raise career aspirations of young people. It has roots in Bermondsey, and this meeting gave a great opportunity to showcase the work they do to support young people in Southwark As a prelude to the next CAN meeting later in the area, Emmanuel from Playback Drama led a visual exercise designed to explore what has shaped someone’s experience living in Bermondsey or Rotherhithe, their current thoughts on the areas, and what their ideal vision of the areas in the future.
The ideal vision appeared to be a lot simpler to contextualise. Overall, everyone was hopeful for a place where:
“Statutory services are delivered fairly and people are treated with respect.”
“People feel safe, happy, and confident.”
“People can have their voices heard.”
“People are proud of their identity.”
“There is acceptance of all, by all.”
“Decrease in youth crime and more access to business development of the borough”
“There is housing for local working people, not just for people looking for an investment property who have no connection, or desire to contribute to the area.”
Moving forward, the attendees believe that the best way of supporting communities in Bermondsey & Rotherhithe is to start on a hyper local level. This is because many of them have had experience of engaging local communities, and found that sometimes, it can be too much to ask for residents to travel too far a distance to support or be involved in community issues. This advice has been taken on, and Southwark CAN will now be looking to see what organisations, estates or TRAs it can support. The next CAN meetings will be split into separate Bermondsey and Rotherhithe meetings, making it easier for people to attend.
If anyone would like more support in getting connected or developing ideas and initiatives please contact a member of our team: firstname.lastname@example.org