community Environment Projects I like

Farms, Hearts and Gardens

Zan Barberton, a documentary cinematographer and director has spent the last year trying to capture the magic of city farms in London. In a beautiful 26 minute documentary, Zan has shown the incredible stories and people that keep these farms alive and such an important part of the community. 

Last year when Hackney Laces was volunteering at Hackney City Farm we met Emma. Emma was a 16 year-old girl who had been kicked out of school and was part of the pupil referral unit at the farm. When you’re not in a formal school environment, you lose access to extra curriculars like sports. One of the farm managers approached us and asked if we’d let Emma into our squad as she loves football. We said of course and she’s been with us ever since.

Inspiration Projects I like

Hackney Neighbourhood Story

This rather beautiful video tells a story of craft and entrepreneurship in Hackney.

community Hackney Laces

Meet Hackney Laces

I’d like to introduce you to Hackney Laces, a group of fabulous young women I have the privilege of spending time with. Speaking of fabulous women, the super talented and painfully modest Zoe Quirk made this video for us. In her spare time she edited hours of footage to make this little video as an introduction to Hackney Laces.


Just Another Football Club

Since November 2010 I’ve had an idea brewing in my head. Often obsessing and sometimes losing sleep over it, this summer I finally got my act together and pitched it to Unltd (a fund for social entrepreneurs) for some start-up cash but mostly for something to kick me into action.

So (drumroll please) this is where I officially announce the beginning of Just Another Football Club. Yes, it’s exactly what the world needs. Another football club.

The idea is to create a community football club for girls between the ages of 13-17. The issue I’m trying to tackle is retaining girls in the game, as there is a really high drop off rate for girls in this bracket. And research has shown that this correlates with two things: a lack of funding for girls and women’s clubs and lack of support.

I’ve always solicited my friends for money via bake sales, pub quizzes, football tournaments, half marathons, and more, to help support the football teams I’ve coached and played for. While I love events and my very generous friends, there has to be a better more sustainable way.

The second issue, a lack of support, come from limited or no opportunities outside of actually playing the sport. Sport has been known to increase self-esteem, develop leadership skills, build relationships and much more but what if a player loses interest in playing – can they still be a part of the team?

The players will have opportunities to get involved in lots of different stuff – not just playing, but coaching refereeing, organising events and other activities.

To tackle these issues and create the best football club ever*, my goal is to build a football club that would be owned and supported by the community. This won’t be an FC, it will be a CC. A community club. Anyone can become a member for a £10 share. All members are equal. This membership lets people to help make club decisions, receive special offers and discounts at local shops as well help fund a grass roots football movement.

If you have ideas or skills to lend, know girls that want to get involved or just want to be one of the first members of the club, get in touch.

The pilot starts tonight and will run every Tuesday night for 6 weeks at Petchey Academy in Hackney from 6-7pm.

*solely my opinion, and likely mine alone.


Endless Sirens

(@Tymonk took this picture at Hackney Central at 5pm today)

I woke up this morning to a bbm message from a teammate from my football team warning me that Stokey was next. Then I received a broadcast that Hackney would be next.

What did this mean? It means that on day 3 of the London riots, first Tottenham, then Enfield and Brixton, now Hackney and other areas, my neighbourhood was next. She knows this because people she knows have been sending out broadcasts and rallying people to cause chaos across London. And she was right. As I headed home from work today around 5pm all of the shops on my high road were closed and there were police lingering around.

I don’t know why people are surprised by the riots. Don’t get me wrong – they are scary and violent and mostly unexpected. The Tottenham riot was shocking and happened following a peaceful protest. However, the ones that followed in Enfield and Brixton – and the now copy-cat crimes taking place all over London – this shouldn’t have come as a surprise at all.

While many people on the streets are youth, it’s not just youth (and in some cases it actually little kids!). It’s not just certain races or ethnicities and it’s not just specific areas. And there isn’t just one root cause. In fact most of it is for no reason at all. Boredom. Curiousity. Peer pressure. A cheap thrill.

Many media outlets and individuals across social media platforms condemn the rioting and try to prescribe the rioters’ motivation and in many instances unknowingly reveal one of the root causes of the unrest. This is the divisions within communities.  (Sidenote: some of the things people have said on Twitter have been appauling – racist and inciting violence in many cases).

The violence and damage which is now widespread is horrible, pointless and going to cost the communities loads. While containing the situations and arresting as many people as possible may make the streets temporarily a bit safer, the same underlying socio-economic divisions will remain.

There are very strong ‘us and them’ sentiments going around. And while there is a difference between rioters and non-rioters, like certain values and a moral compass, the people who are destroying our communities, our neighbourhoods, our high streets are also part of our community. We share bus routes and sidewalks, we share GP surgeries and MPs.

While throwing petrol bombs and looting shops has never achieved anything, neither has ignoring a problem. It always find a way of resurfacing.

As this chaos will undoubtedly continue over the next little while, please all take care x


London 2012

Last week I went to a fabulous event, put on by The School of Research and my friend Charlie Tims. For the past year, Charlie has been working on a project with A New Direction’s Biggest Learning Opportunity on Earth programme (Biglop), which brings together artists and cultural organisations with schools across London to explore the London Olympics and Paralympic Games.

The aim of the project was to look at what the Olympics means to young people in London and to use creativity to explore historical, cultural, social and economic value of their city. Here’s a lovely video that shows some of the kids’ findings.

I think this programme is ace. (I even asked Charlie if I could have his job. He said no). With all of the Olympic ticketing scheme drama, huge commercial sponsorship deals, doping athletes and massive infrastructure overhauls in host cities, the Olympics feels really far removed from the community, especially young people. What the Biglop is trying to do is engage with kids to inspire them to be creative, curious and involved in the games and the city in which they live.

Another really cool part of the night was learning about the Olympic truce. The Olympic Trucecalls upon humanity to lay down its weapons and work towards building the foundations of peace, mutual respect, understanding and reconciliation”.  It dates back to the 9th century BC, in Ancient Greece and asks for people around the world to be free to participate and travel to and from the Olympics in peace. Sadly this truce hasn’t been observed since 1993.

Embarrassingly I didn’t know such truce existed. The first I heard of it was via Lord Bates on a pre-recorded Skype call at the event.

Lord Bates is a man who believes so deeply in the need for the truce to be honoured that he is walking from Athens all the way back to London. He’s walking 3,000 miles in order to gain support from other world leaders and the public to honour the truce once again. Crazy inspiring.

I’ve never lived in an Olympic host city until now. I came quite close for the Vancouver winter games but left just as the construction was beginning. Now with London 2012 only one year away I hope for two things:

1. The Olympic Truce is honoured (You can show your support here).

2. That there will be loads of opportunities for young people – and anyone – to get involved and aspire to be good at something.


Sharing is good. We should all share more.

Yesterday I went to a fabulous workshop put on by Waste Watch on shared community assets. It was basically a room full of people all doing great things in their communities, encouraging principles of “collaborative consumption‘ and a better use and allocation of resources.

I learned some really interesting things, like how people prefer higher levels of health, happiness and love to wealth (based on research by the New Economics Foundation). I know this may sound like a given but in this age of excessive consumption that fact is both surprising and oddly reassuring.

I also met some lovely people running very inspiring projects, like TimeBank, Food Cycle, Lourish, Ecomodo, and many others. Although most people in the room came from different backgrounds, the common ground was all of our interests in sustainable consumption, through sharing various things, like time, food, possessions and space.

Sharing as a concept, way or life, value set – whatever you’d like to refer to it as – isn’t anything new. We are taught from a young age that sharing and being generous are good qualities. Yet somewhere between being young and told to share toys with others kids we get lead astray by many things, including shiny adverts and cultural attitudes alluding that a life with more stuff is an enhanced way of being. And it’s not.

The difficulty of course lies in behavioural and cultural change. How is it that you can show people that you don’t need to own a drill to be able to use one or have access to one. Or that one company’s food surplus could make a world or difference to a small charity trying to feed London’s poor? Why don’t more people share?

At the moment a lot of sharing services live online. The internet has had a profound impact on how people interact with each other and redefined what a community is. However, I’d argue that the vast majority of people using online swap services all come from a similar demographic, the demographic that I fall in. Digitally active. Young (ish). Middle class. For me, I find it super easy to kit out my house in free stuff. It’s also really easy to trade clothes online. But what I’d really interested in is sharing as a movement and way of life rather than just loads of cool services available to those who know how to look for them. It would do the planet a whole lot of good if people stopped buying things they only use once and started thinking about where they can get something they need or want before heading to the shops. For some people, this is already the norm, but for most, more needs to be done to pave the sharing way. Hopefully more people, in addition to the lovely ones I met yesterday will champion the shift to a society that shares more and shares better.

Ps- Out of interest I Googled sharing services. Who knew you could rent goats? Or share horses?




A Little Gem In The Heart Of Dalston

Last week I went to the Print House to meet Les, from East London Food Access project (a fabulous organisation) and have a chat about work related things. I spent waaaaaay to much time there, one, because Les and I couldn’t’ stop talking and two, because the building is such an exceptional place.

Loveliness in the stairwells …

and a place to chill out on the roof.

Solar panels on the roof …

and the energy meters monitoring and displaying usage.

Upon leaving I found out that the space, known as Dalston Roof Park and run by Bootstrap Company has loads of events on including vintage clothing sales, gigs and parties. And flexible working spaces too!

If you’re ever in the Dalston area, poke your head in. It’s a really nice space.



Projects I like

Before I Die I Want To …

A sad and abandoned house is awaiting its demise. Rather than watch passively as it confronts its fate, artist Candy Chang decided to create a place for others to empathise with the house by facing their own mortality and sharing the things they’d like to do before they die.

This is one of those public art projects that is so imaginative, so inspirational and so good you wish that was in your neighbourhood. But, by the sounds of it, Candy is in the process of sorting out large stencils so it’s easy to reproduce. I can’t wait! It’s such a beautiful, original and interactive project.

(Spotted on Brain Pickings)