Regents Estate, youth and family engagement project

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gab have been working on Regents Estate in Hackney for the last couple of years. We are part of a co-operative workspace whose office is based on the estate. Having been involved with the local community previously, and having already been connected with some of the children and young people in the area, we noticed a theme repeating itself in the conversations we witnessed:

                                                    “There’s nothing for the young people to do”

 So, with some of the local children we decided to do attempt to change that.

The government cuts on local youth facilities has hit the area hard. 2 youth clubs were shut down in 2012/2013 on Regents Estate, and these were not replaced with anything constructive for the local young people. Also, with the regeneration and development of Hackney over the past decade this has meant big changes for the local community. Broadway market, which the estate is nestled behind, has changed drastically with a lot of new businesses moving in to cater for the new gentrified demographic. This has marginalised some of the local community, as we’ve discovered from working with residents in the area, some of whom complain about feeling ostracised and cut off from the new economic and social world emerging just beyond their doorsteps.

Hackney, according to the council, is a ‘diverse and global borough, with a dynamic, cohesive, growing community’. But what is the reality of this ‘multicultural melting pot’? In some situations it seems parallel communities co-exist in one space, with little if any integration. When Broadway Market actually becomes a market on Saturdays, it is as if the Hackney Homes’ owned tower blocks and estates behind, around and in between the gentrified patches, belong to some other dimension. As Slavoj Zizek has commented, there seems to be an unspoken agreement that these rigidly separated groups in London (divided by race, language, religion, class, money, education, and age) have an unspoken agreement that they will not mix, some have become complacent that this agreement will not and need not be challenged !

With these issues in mind, gab wanted to become actively involved in helping to bring about processes to challenge these situations that effects the position of the community on Regents Estate.  At the end of last year, we re-established a juniors club through which we are regularly engaging with some of the children and young people in the surrounding area. We’ve also increased our activity by connecting with more families and different neighbourhood bodies, such as local schools and resident associations on other estates, as well as local youth workers. We hope to extend our reach even further, in order to understand how and what we can do to engage with young people in the area; giving them a space to express themselves, play, and connect in a safe, receptive environment.

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We are seeking to address important issues for them which hinder their opportunities and wellbeing, such as : a lack of social integration, negative attitudes towards children and young people by the local community, limited awareness of the specific needs of children and young people, inadequate places to play, exercise or socialise, the lack of forum to hear a child’s or young person’s voice.

We are interested in our role as cultural agents to foster creative thinking and reflection in order to bring about more equitable development in the area. With collective intentionality, we believe neighbourhoods can improve and be a better place for a community to develop together. Businesses, artists, and local residents have a responsibility to work together to create a united community of happy and enriched individuals.

If you live locally and would like to support this community project, please get in touch.

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