Day Six: Interviewing and Empathy

Today we focused on interviewing and field research to gain insight into the local community; their demographic, needs, aspirations, thoughts and behaviour.

Responding to the R-urban challenge 2, ‘How can we best engage with the immediate local community alongside a wider global collective working in similar fields?’, we brain stormed the questions we had for our challenge setter, Carlota from Public Works which manages R-Urban. The interviewees practised the skills learned about rapport, engagement, silence and different kinds of questioning. We introduced ourselves and began by asking Carlota about her involvement with the project. Our following questions were semi structured around the following themes: Local Community, Resources, Projects, Ambitions, Organisations/Global community. Through this process, we recognised the controversy within such a project, highlighting the value and tension between history and progress; what should be conserved and how best to develop. The group members who did not interview collected very meaningful data about the local demographic finding the two major religions to be Christianity and Islam, with a high proportion of disabled, elderly and young residents, along with high levels of deprivation.

Splitting into two groups, we went into the field to undertake spatial analysis through photography, video and sound, along with informal interviews of local residents and businesses.

Interview One: Builders

Points: Hadn’t heard of R-urban. Suggested having a garden party or BBQ/music festival to introduce people to the space. Advising across Hackney Wick with flyers is what they believed was the norm to get people keen to participate in events. Lastly, engaging with local businesses could prove fruitful for greater footfall in the MGC.

Interview Two: Management at Hub67

Points: Despite being a part of LLDC and Yard Theatre, they too hadn’t heard of R-urban. Funded by LLDC, the aim of Hub67 is to create cohesion among the three communities: established, artists and new young professionals through yoga and mother and daughter activities as an example.

Interview Three: Florist Owner

Points: Despite commuting to work, the owner has lots of contact with the local community which she believes is too diverse to generalise upon. She did suggest the community is scattered and keep to themselves as a result of leading busy lives and are therefore less integrated. She saw the community as divided between home owners, renters and artists. Working in similar fields, she would be interested in the potential network and collaboration with the Mobile Garden City, and yet is not currently aware of its presence.

Interview Four: Elderly Resident

Points: Lived in Trowbridge Estate for 20 years. Too busy to be involved with R-urban/MGC but passionate about gardening. Believes young people aren’t interested in gardening and the majority of the elderly aren’t mobile enough to be able to engage. Noticed the area has changed over the course of Olympic development with greater noise and re-routed traffic.

We collated our research and impressions of the local community and shared our reflections on the day. What struck me is the lack of communication and outreach of programmes like Hub67 and R-urban/Mobile Garden City to the communities that are most affected and disadvantaged by the development. Overwhelmingly, I feel that funds have been given and infrastructure built that show bias towards the creative class. Through initiatives like R-urban and Hub67, that use art graduates and the like to create social cohesion, I can’t help but think, where are the other local communities? How are they being represented? How are their dreams, needs and challenges being voiced, or even addressed? Through this project, I hope we can begin to re-balance this bias.




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