Inclusivity through Community Co-Design

June 1, 2022

At Creative Land Trust, we want our spaces to be as relevant and to work as well as possible for artists, residents, and the community in the vicinity. It’s important therefore that we reflect what these groups want in the design of the spaces. We are learning from colleagues in the sector on how best to do this.

We were excited to find out about the plans at Green Street’s Queen’s Market where Rosetta Arts has been selected by Newham Council to run a new Creative Wellbeing Space, an initiative supported by the Greater London Authority’s Good Growth Fund. Along with architects Office S&M designs for a light touch fit out are being drawn up for artist studios, workspace, a communal space and a café in what’s currently a disused retail unit that once housed a grocery store. These are being reviewed in consultation with local people to co-design the public realm space, wayfinding, graphics, outdoor furniture, graphics, and storytelling panels. An artist mural will also be commissioned.

Creative Land Trust’s site in Newham sits in the heart of Stratford town centre. Alice Billings House will provide 26 artist studios, an events and project space that may also host a community café and new public realm space for the local community. The site is owned by London Borough of Newham and so it is no coincidence that along with their recently released Cultural Strategy, the Council is looking to use culture to help regenerate its high streets and find ways to make Culture a viable career for Newham residents, particularly in this post pandemic economic landscape.

Newham’s Active Spaces programme brings disused properties in the Council’s portfolio into new uses that will cater to Newham based people’s needs. Similar opportunities are being seen across London. At International House in Brixton, Lambeth Council has provided 3space a lease to create a home for local creative businesses and start-ups with over 6,000 square feet dedicated to the affordable workspace. Binki Taylor from The Brixton Project says “re-using existing buildings like International House is not only more sustainable but can also avoid gentrification. The approach of ‘gentle refurbishment’ with the tenants has created a clear sense of ownership and identity. Tenants have a stake and a say in how the building is run.”

Love E15 is a Community-Building Mural, Paint the Change (Left Image). 3 Space International House, Brixton (Top Right Image). Queens Market, Newham. (Bottom Right Image). 
Newham Unlocked Festival, 2021 (Banner Image)

Newham is one of London’s youngest and most diverse boroughs. It’s important that as many of these voices are heard as possible, and we are working with our conservation architects Purcell, to reach out to these communities and for design to be inclusive of gender, disability, ethnicity, language, age and socio-economic background. Using different methodologies, co-design can become a tool to create positive social impact and change, giving space to those sometimes not listened to. The aim will be to ensure the new public spaces being created put function ahead of design and help reflect need, and workspaces genuinely work for people who require it and those who may otherwise have difficulty accessing it. It is hoped that this will ensure that a range of voices including marginalised groups are listened to and their needs responded to.

Co-design can also sometimes result in co-production. Newham Council recently identified that neighbourhoods where fly-tipping has become prevalent is often linked to pattern of increased anti-social and criminal behaviour. One of the methods to tackle this was to work with the community to design a new mural in West Ham, and this has already successfully detracted unwanted fly-tipping in the area.

Creative Land Trust is working with Paint The Change on a new art commission. Through workshops with schools and local community groups the commission will result in series of new portraits of upstanding local Newham people, made by local Newham people, that will be printed on to fliers and distributed in shops, libraries and community spaces across Newham and displayed on posters near Alice Billings House and across Stratford’s Broadway, creating an outdoor gallery along the high street. This is just one way of looking to reimagine the use of the high street in town centres of the 21st Century. Look out for these new artworks appearing over the next two years!

About the author

Yves Blais, Operations Manager, Creative Land Trust.

Yves has worked on the project since its inception. As part of the start up team he delivered the initial multi-million pound funding from the three founding funders that helped establish the organisation. He also has experience in writing successful bids to trusts and foundations and public institutions in arts, culture and heritage, specifically focused on property, placemaking, and culture. This includes the acquisition of artworks into national museum collections around the UK. He has managed grant reporting across different projects in both arts and property.

Yves has experience advising and brokering opportunities in property for affordable workspace provision through his work at Outset Contemporary Art Fund and WorkWild. He is also a producer and curator having worked on public programmes across the UK, and is a trustee at art commissioning and production charity Forma, and a director with postgraduate art education programme TOMA.