The well-anticipated first day out in East London in the incredible sunshine, we began the day in Stour space with a talk from Conrad. He discussed the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park we would be visiting in the context of other Olympic parks and their many controversies. Despite no human rights issues with the 2012 London Olympics the future of the space that straddles four boroughs including Newham, Waltham Forest, Hackney and Tower Hamlets was a contentious issue, raising the debate of the long term legacy and what this would mean for the local people long after the games had finished. The project therefore outlined themes that it would measure and aim to improve over the coming years, including tackling issues of obesity, general health and well being and the reduction of the existing poverty gap associated with these areas relative to the rest of London, that leaves its population with fewer opportunities and shorter lifespans. It made us think of the reality of the major consequences of these projects and how shaping spaces can influence the health, education and happiness of the population and the generations that follow and also therefore the huge responsibility of regenerating old spaces in a sensitive and with a human-centered holistic approach.
We then began our rambles in groups through the local neighbourhood by foot having a chance to view the old and new constructions. The most remarkable aspect of our walk through fish island and Hackney wick was the state of flux in some areas and the heavy development occurring seemingly everywhere you looked. The presence of cranes and newly constructed sights sat next to the old factories and industrial estates. We discussed the impact on local communities of the influx of a new generation of people and the possibility that although perhaps disparate in background, both groups were being affected by the same issues of the price of living and working spaces. Both groups needed facilities that catered for their working lives such as schools and good health services ideas that could be further explored in our projects.
As we approached the Queen Elizabeth’s Olympic park we found a new environment, more engineered, more green and ecologically more diverse and open. We discussed how these spaces will change over the next decade and whether they will ever create the same local communities that exist in Hackney Wick as in the new homes that are currently being built on the site. With UCL’s own investment in hereEast as well as UCL East their own responsibility to cater for the community and integrate into the wider community was discussed through cheaper courses potentially more vocational in order to give back to the local community and break down the divide between the university and the local neighbourhoods, it will be interesting to see this come to fruition.
We then congregated at the Mobile Garden on the east side of the park to discuss the R-urban project, we were shown the different plants being grown and the plans to use the biogas created to fuel cooking on site in the new café soon to be built. The gift economy tool library and bike repair service also showed innovative ways at creating ideals of a civic society and underpinned the whole ethos of the space in sharing the resources and individual skills we have with each other in the community in a space that would otherwise be an empty site waiting for construction.
We rounded off a busy day with the cross-strand human rights conference where we got the chance to hear about the other strands activities and come together to produce declaration commitments for UCL to uphold human rights.