A year ago, more or less, you helped us raise nearly £30,000 to flesh out the East London Waterworks Park idea. In that time, we’ve created a strong – and, I think, really beautiful – visual identity for the project, we’ve worked out how much the land is worth and put together the first iteration of our business plan, we’ve talked to the community to develop an inclusive ethos for the project (of which more in a moment), and we’ve worked with Expedition on a pre-feasibility study (of which more shortly; the report is being prepared as I type). We hope you think we’ve used, and are continuing to use, your money wisely. We could not have got this far without you; thank you.
With this phase of work finishing, it’s time to look ahead! As those of you who’ve read the business plan will know, we envisaged signing a heads-of-terms agreement with the landowner, which would set out the purchase price and give us a number of years to raise the capital sum required to buy the land. However, while we’ve had a positive conversation with LocatED and have thrown our hat in the ring, it has become clear that we must raise a considerable sum of money as soon as possible to be seen as a credible buyer. That’s why we’ll be launching a new crowdfunding campaign towards the end of the month.
Right from the get-go, we’ve said that we’re committed to inclusivity, that we want to ensure everybody feels welcome in and around the project and that the park itself is designed to welcome everybody. And I don’t think there are many people who would argue against this as a concept. The challenge of course is how you do more than pay lip service to the idea. What does inclusivity mean and how do you make sure it is manifested? To help us answer these questions, East London Waterworks Park began a listening project.
Phase one of the listening project focused on desk research. We read as much as we could about the needs and experiences of women, disabled people, people from ethnic minorities, children, people from disadvantaged backgrounds and people on low incomes in relation to community spaces and green and blue places. From our findings, we developed eight inclusivity principles.
Phase two of the listening project tested these inclusivity principles with twelve community organisations representing groups of people who are historically underrepresented in environmental projects like East London Waterworks Park. We talked to:
- Interlink Foundation, representing Orthodox Jews
- MIND, representing people with mental health difficulties
- English Conversation Club, representing people who do not speak English as a first language
- Waltham Forest Women’s Network, representing women
- elop, representing LGBTQ+ people
- Millfields Community School Parent Staff Association, representing parents with young children
- Waltham Forest Young Advisors, representing younger people
- Voyage Youth, representing Black people and particularly younger Black people
- Connect Hackney, representing older people
- Muslamic Makers, representing Muslims
- A speech and language therapist with experience of working with children and young people who have special educational needs, representing children and young people with special educational needs
- Made in Hackney, representing people from disadvantaged backgrounds and people on low incomes
The conversations were inspiring and we are extremely grateful for the generosity of all the participants, who shared their insights and wisdom with us. They have helped us refine East London Waterworks Park’s inclusivity principles and think more deeply about how we can – now and in the future – put them into practice. You can read the full report here https://www.elwp.org.uk/Committee/Display.php?File=373&Code=6rYZCskiT2l4MxYbR1Ls9ZkPbawP0mcY It sets out the original principles, the conversations and the revised principles, and puts forward a proposal for phase three of the listening project. We’re excited about talking to more people to further deepen our understanding.
I find it very inspiring to talk to people who are different from me. In many ways, that means I find it inspiring to talk to just about anybody because even when, on the surface, I appear to have life experiences in common with someone, so often our paths through life have been different and there is something I can learn about the world from a conversation with them. But what does that mean for inclusivity? I think, in the past, I might have said that inclusivity is about having an open heart, treating everyone the same and finding common ground. And I still believe that is important. But I’ve come to realise that inclusivity is also – and perhaps more importantly – about finding our points of difference and working out how to accommodate those differences together. It’s about talking and listening and finding out how we are different and how your needs and my needs can coexist quite happily. As anyone who has bickered with a partner about how best to hang out the washing will know that’s not always easy, but it is possible if you commit to the work. And East London Waterworks Park has very much committed to the work.
Abigail Woodman, 7 June 2022