Friday 24 July 2009

Looking for an intern interested in the reuse of empty spaces

Do you know someone who wants to get experience in urban design, community development and creative regeneration?

We're looking for someone who is available part- or full-time over the next few weeks to get things moving around the reuse of empty shops and other spaces in Tower Hamlets. This would be a flexible, project-based internship, organised through Space Makers, and working with myself and Elin Ng.

The project would include:

  • identifying and researching the ownership of empty properties
  • identifying agents who may have a portfolio of properties they have difficulty in leasing
  • looking at people who we could get to support our project (e.g. councillors/arts trusts/community business leaders)
  • co-ordinating proposals for temporary uses of empty properties
  • looking into how Tower Hamlets council may be guided by guidelines (e.g. LDA guidelines, the Mayor's London plan etc)

We're an unfunded, volunteer-driven organisation, so we would only be able to cover the most basic costs - but you would get to meet and work with a range of people active at a local and national level, finding creative possibilities among the challenges of the recession. You would have the chance to demonstrate your ability to get people together, make things happen and generate tangible results. The project and your role at the heart of it will be well documented online and this should enable you to stand out when looking for employment or applying for courses in related fields.

If you're interested in finding out more, please contact me at or on 07810 650213.

Do you have a project for an empty space in Tower Hamlets?

Since I wrote about "freecycling" empty high street shops, there's been a lot of activity - some of which is starting to bear fruit. Both online and at our monthly London meetups, the Space Makers Network has brought together people and organisations interested in both practical projects and longer-term thinking about the collaborative reuse of space.

Now, together with Elin Ng and Emily Miller (who's also running the Meanwhile Project), we're looking for proposals for empty shops and spaces around Tower Hamlets. We can't promise that we can match your idea to a space, but we do have a meeting with the local council in ten days time and they've asked us to come with practical proposals for specific projects.

If you're in or near Tower Hamlets and you have a potential project, you can complete an outline proposal using our online questionnaire - or come down to the Gallery Cafe in Bethnal Green between 6 and 7.30pm next Thursday and talk it over with us.

Projects need to be:

  • temporary - we're talking about making use of a space for weeks or months, not as a permanent base
  • capable of being put into action quickly - do you (and people you know) have the time to make your idea a reality in the very near future?

Apart from that, we're open to just about anything - not only art projects, but spaces for work and play, temporary businesses or museums, community projects of all kinds. If we're able to help you take your project further, we'll probably ask you to write up a fuller plan for it. For now, though, just give us a brief outline of what you'd like to do (and why) by completing the online questionnaire.

Once again, we won't be the ones making decisions about whether projects get spaces, but we will take your proposals to the council and do our best to get things happening.

Thursday 23 July 2009

Dark Mountain Project Update

So there we were, last Friday night, in a barn in a field beside the Thames to launch the Dark Mountain Manifesto. (Those relying on sat nav to guide them in were foxed by the half mile walk from the nearest road, which added a suitably uncivilised edge to the evening.) Paul talked about how he got fed up with journalism and the environmental movement. I called George Monbiot some rude words. Get Cape Wear Cape Fly, Chris T-T and Marmaduke Dando lent us their voices, giving memorable and moving performances. Much good local beer was drunk and a fine night was had all round.

Almost a week on, I'm still posting off copies of the manifesto to our subscribers. (If you haven't received yours yet, apologies.) We've been reviewed by the Morning Star and the RSA's Arts & Ecology blog, whose editor called it "erudite, lyrical and, most of all, apolcalyptic in an almost William Blake-ish kind of way". Slowly, the word spreads outward, and Paul and I will be writing articles for various places over the weeks ahead.

Meanwhile, if you missed the launch, check out Andy Broomfield's beautiful photos. And if you're still wondering what all this Dark Mountain stuff is about, this interview I did with Anab Jain may help.

Dougald Hine talks about the Dark Mountain Project from Anab Jain / Superflux on Vimeo.

Wednesday 8 July 2009

MP for Westminster: Tomlinson "in the wrong place at the wrong time"

Mark Field is the MP for the Cities of Westminster and London. When the G20 came to London this April, it was in his constituency that tens of thousands of protesters came to make their voices heard. Numerous incidents during those protests have been scrutinised by the media and the police watchdog, the IPCC - but none has received more attention than the death of Ian Tomlinson. A local newspaper vendor, Tomlinson got caught up in the protests, was struck and thrown to the ground by a police officer and died soon afterwards - a sequence of events initially covered up by the police, until cameraphone footage emerged.

My friend Mike Bennett wrote to Field, as one of his constituents, expressing concerns about the policing of the summit and asking a series of questions about the "relationship between police, public and politicians". Mike has published his letter and Field's reply on his website.

What startled me was the phrase Field used to describe Tomlinson:

"an innocent man who appears to have simply been in the wrong place at the wrong time"

Is it me, or is this is a deeply inappropriate description of the situation?

What if Tomlinson had been a protester - would he still have been "in the wrong place at the wrong time"? Or would that have made him fair game?

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