Monday, 14 September 2009

Tottenham Show and 'Revive the Rec'

Broadwater Farm's high-rise blocks sit alongside Lordship Rec park. They're about 10-20 mins walk north of our house, depending whether you take the direct or scenic route. This Saturday was 'Revive the Rec' festival in the park, incorporating the 3rd Annual Tottenham Food and Produce Show. I started the day early registering entries for the Show, and when released, headed for the Save Wards Corner campaign's area -- setting out the bookstall, then helping run the plant stall. The sun shone, so good turn-out of people, kids, dogs...

The Festival was started up by the Friends of Lordship Rec group, working with 'Back to Earth', a small local environmental project/consultancy. They ran community consultation exercises and drew up a plan that includes an eco-centre building by the lake, a city farm in an area fenced off for (now largely unused) playing fields), restoring the 'model traffic area' where kids on bikes and trikes can practice the rules of the road, and de-culverting and landscaping the river Moselle which runs through the Rec and continues under the Estate's housing blocks before it re-emerges in Tottenham cemetery. The first Festival aimed to show the strength of local support for the bid to Revive the Rec -- and duly helped secure HLF funding for the project. Ahead of work on the Rec starting, once the funds are in the bank, Back to Earth and the Sustainable Haringey Food Group (or Growing in Haringey) started up a Community Cafe and Food Co-op that runs in Broadwater Farm Community Centre the last Friday and Saturday each month. The Cafe is run by Farm residents, and links to catering NVQ training and accreditation; the Food Co-op is run by SH volunteers.

How the spatial layout of stalls at these events fits (or doesn't) the 'social geography' networks always intrigues me. Because the Lordship Rec show is purely community based and run, the organisers had a pretty good idea about the intricate network of inter-connections, but the puzzle simply can't be solved in a 2-D layout. The 'jam and jerusalem' show marquee sits up the slope, flanked this year by the organisers fundraising gream teas and activities tent, and a long 'Green zone' marquee where Sustainable haringey and its Food Group set up. But Friends of the Earth/Haringey Tree Trust and Friends of Tottenham Marshes were on the other side of the path, outside the Green Zone, alongside the sprawling Wards Corner campaign -- bookstall, plant stall, campaign info (plus raffle, and camapign-logoed mugs, t-shirts, canvas bags), and tea-and cakies cafe -- with the local Eye Practice/Tottenham Traders Association alongside. The optometrist who is also chair of Tottenham traders occupies one of the buildings threatened with demolition by the Council's plans that the campaign opposes. However, the Ibero-American Association tent was a long way off -- the market traders in Wards Corner building itself are one of London's two main Latino trading and activity centres. Meanwhile, Tottenham Civic Society (which is part of Sustainable Haringey and of the Wards Corner campaign) was way off on its own at the gate through from the lake and model traffic area. And the Food Co-op and Community Cafe were running in the Community Centre the other side of the Moselle. JN and I belong to all of those except Tottenham Traders and the Ibero-American Assoc -- he's Civic Society secretary, Friends of the Earth treasurer. We both ended the day helping pack up the Wards Corner area, along with a ward councillor who (like most of the councillors who actually represent the locality) has come out publicly opposing the Council's demolition-based plans and supporting the community campaign.

Last year, I worked on the Show right through from registration through the judging and certificate writing process -- a highly complex set of routines. This time, there were fewer entries -- but more vegetables and jams; registration deadline was set slightly earlier and there were more volunteers. Nonetheless, judging this year still ran right up to 3.30pm -- half an hour past the scheduled time for local MP David Lammy to present prize certificates. Last year, I then wandered around all the stalls. This year, I just got a couple breaks to head for the Community Centre's proper toilets (always avoid the porta-loos if you can). So I didn't get to the Civic Society, or to the Green Zone marquee, or even to the FOE and FOTM tents along our own range of stalls. I bought olive oil and a couple of plants from the Justice for Palestine stall, where one of our neighbours (who I think of affectionately as 'Furry Philip' was working), waved at the Food Co-op folk whose stock was selling out rapidly. Apart from that, I saw those who dropped by our stall.

At the start of the spring/summer community events season, we had lots of plants to sell; at this tag end of the season, a very depleted stock. The main supplier is Sue P, who has what in these parts counts as a big garden, and whose latest project is running a 'Garden Swap' scheme in her road. I'm the other major plant supplier. We ended the day with just one tray of unsold plants. But yesterday I brought a dozen small Savoy cabbage plants home from the allotment to pot up, plus a flourishing calendula that had been growing among them. The Wards campaign is planning a community consultation day, with architects, on 3 October -- we may have re-built the stock to run another stall then.

Broadwater Farm became notorious in the 1980s - the useful Wikipedia entry says it was dubbed 'worst place to live' in England, and hit the headlines with the Broadwater Farm riot in 1985 (four years before we moved to Tottenham). Residents really resent the way that every time the place gets mentioned, the history of the riots and the bad reputation get dragged up again. After the riots, regeneration money was poured in, the above-ground walkway system was demolished, the buildings renovated and each block given its own entry-control system and concierge. Community organisations were formed, training and youth projects were funded, and the place turned itself around. In 2003, apparently, there was only one crime reported on the estate, a burglar who was arrested -- it now has one of the lowest urban crime rates. Until the Food Co-op started, we had no reason to go into the estate, and would have felt intruders just to go in and wander around. Having the Co-op and Cafe to visit regularly, we and others living around the area now have the estate as part of our home territory, a place we know and go to, not seen as a separated-off enclave or ghetto. The Festival similarly aimed to draw both Farm and other local residents into visiting and using the adjacent Rec -- both so that local people who used to fear and avoid the wide open, potentially wild, space could enjoy and benefit from it, and so by having more people of all ages using it, to walk kids and dogs, to play, to sit out on sunny days, the Rec itself would feel safer and be safer and so encourage more use and social benefit...

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