Monday, 22 July 2013

Connecting people, places and green spaces - Creative Citizens in Grove Park and Downham

Who are the Creative Citizens?

A group of local people met last November at Goldsmiths Community Centre to talk about how we could participate in the Community Led Design strand of the AHRC funded project Creative Citizens, with the Open University and the Helen Hamlyn Centre, Royal College of Art. This came out of the work we had done with The Glass-House Community Led Design at Goldsmiths to create a vision for the community centre, in 2009-10.

Over the next few months I attended further meetings and workshops (sometimes alone, sometimes with others from the focus group!) at the Festival Hall, at the OU centre in Camden and Cafe Rouge in Hays Galleria. I met many interesting groups working across London, and together we contributed to Community Design Exchange, a social network and research tool linking groups together to share information. 

An asset mapping workshop was arranged for 20 March at the community centre. The overarching theme is wellbeing and health.

Asset mapping workshop at Goldsmiths Community Centre
How could we link the two assets of the community centre and gardens, with an app?
A further co-creation workshop focussed our attention on the assets we had identified and encouraged us to be creative about how we could use media to link them up.
Through my work with the Downham & Whitefoot Interagency project local people had identified the need for what is available for them in their area, linking people with facilities and open spaces, and ultimately their neighbours; local organisations to link together to offer their activities and events and work together not in isolation.

Creative Citizens on a hot hike

Date: Wednesday 17 July 2013
Time: 3.30 pm
Venue: Ringway Community Centre, 268 Baring Road SE12
Temperature: HOT!

Were we mad to set off for a walk in Downham, starting in leafy Grove Park, on one of the hottest days of the year so far? Not in the least! Intrepid Citizens that we are, we hacked our way through tropical undergrowth to the railway line and beyond, starting in the gardens of the Ringway Centre, through Cox's Wood to the Grove Park Nature Reserve.

Making our way through the grounds of the Ringway Centre
Stephen Kenny, Chair of Grove Park Community Group, with Melissa and Louise from The Glass-House Community Led Design, at Grove Park Nature Reserve
The pedestrian bridge over the lines between Hither Green and Grove Park stations (what a shame they couldn't have put a Downham station in between, especially as a railway line was used to build the Downham Estate!)

Hither Green Cemetery, from the nature reserve, across the tracks

Photo courtesy of

Welcome to Downham!

Once we'd crossed the tracks we split up into two groups each with a map and a route to mark or log community assets. There is a path through to Reigate Road and thence to Verdant Lane. There is the beginning of a flight of stairs up an embankment, which goes nowhere. It leads to an open grassy area, which is quite featureless apart from the Downham Fire Station (scheduled to be closed by cuts) and a forlorn playground.

Green Chain Walk Fingerpost signposting our route from Baring Road in Grove Park to Verdant Lane in Downham, and connections to the Capital Ring
Jane from Rushey Green Time Bank holds up an 'UNLOVED' sign for a playground full of equipment that no-one wants to play on. Is it uninteresting, unsafe or just unloved?
A map of Downham, with some points of interest and assets - we found more on our travels and plenty of green spaces. Small areas of grass; triangles, strips and more substantial ones where children can play. One triangle of grass was subdivided by a low metal fence, for no apparent reason.

Led by the intrepid Trevor (far left) from Downham Community Project one group set off to explore 'North' Downham. It was built later than the Downham Estate and was originally referred to as the Whitefoot Lane Estate, and Perry's Farm before that! Dr Theo Zamenopoulus from the Open University, on the right, and Ruth from Downham Nutrition Partnership third left. Ruth has been involved in every part of this project.

The other group, led by Sonja from Ringway and supported by Dr Katerina Alexiou from the Open University, made their way along Ballamore Road towards the Woodland Walk. An almost unbroken line of privet hedges divides the front gardens from the pavement, along most Downham streets. Many of the streets (and schools) were named from Thomas Malory's Morte D'Arthur. There is Launcelot Road and school, Merlin and Mordred Roads and many more! 
The Tahir Mosque at the junction of Verdant and Whitefoot Lanes. It used to be the John Henry Housing Office. Who was John Henry? Mayor of Lewisham 1982-3
The Parade: Offie, Empty Shop, Florist (handy for the cemetery opposite), Klassy Kebab and Rock N Roe fish and chip shop. Not forgetting, on the end, a bookies.  What more could one want? Answer - a 'Bonjour'.
It's in a petrol station! If you fancy the Costa Coffee experience why not take one away, from the garage. On this site stood a pub, The Governor General. There are now no pubs in Downham at all since the Downham Tavern was shut down.
Around the corner, in Waters Road, some unloved domestic items. That basket looks quite useful to me. Why are they lying near the gates?
I wonder where this alleyway leads?
My kinda town
The Woodland Walk at Shroffold Road, a relic of ancient woodland. Local group Friends of the Woodland Walk meet on the last Sunday of every month

Back at the Ringway Centre to discuss our findings. Many thanks to all who participated, particularly Sonja and Stephen from Ringway, Jane from Rushey Green Time Bank and Paul and Pamela from Quaggy Waterways Action Group, who gave up their time to join us and contributed their valuable observations to the walks and subsequent discussions.
The next meeting will be in September, date and venue to be confirmed. If you are a local person and want to be involved please email me at

For more information about the project please follow these links.

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