The Space (2019) - Design and delivery of community engagement strategy and research report for The Space, commissioned by Street Space in collaboration with IF_DO architects.

The Space is an exciting proposal to establish a new community facility in place of an existing Methodist church on Elsinge Estate in Enfield. Over the period of three months I worked with Street Space and Simon Wasser to devise and deliver a programme of engagement to raise awareness about the project and involve people in shaping its future. The project was commissioned by The Methodist Church Network and IF_DO architects who are working together to transform the disused church into a facility for all.

The Space is located on Elsinge Estate in Turkey Street ward, situated in the north-east of Enfield. The low-rise estate was built in the 1950’s and has experienced minimal redevelopment or growth since it was built. Turkey Street is the 4th most deprived ward in Enfield with 47% children living in poverty. Over the last 25 years, the community has seen many new residents moving in from a range of backgrounds including Turkish, Greek, Polish and Somali. Despite many people having lived in the area for a long time, the community is fragmented with limited opportunities to connect and feel socially cohesive. Complex issues such as anti-social behaviour and youth violence and compound the feeling of fragmentation.

Our methodology centred around creating moments for meaningful exchange within and amongst the local community. Through a series of pop-up events, spontaneous interactions and collective celebrations we harnessed conversation as a tool to reveal the knowledge and experience of local residents. Through each conversation we discovered a very different perspective, learnt a very unique knowledge and heard a very individual voice, unearthing key challenges faced by the local community. 

Through our engagement we began to harness the Church as a testing ground for its future uses. We tested ideas contributed by the community including: boxing club, football club, children’s club, supper club and art activities some of which have continued to exist as weekly or monthly events at the Space. As our involvement came to an end we formed a community steering group to sustain connections and ensure the voices of the community continue to inform the evolution of the design and programming of the space. We held the first meeting as our final goodbye - but I will continue to look out for the Space as it evolves into the future!

Photographs taken by Carys Lavin.