Session 1: Introduction to Community Mapping

Latymer Projects and Constantine Gras will be holding a 6 week community mapping project and invite local residents to attend. Our first session took place on 17th March 2012.

The project was introduced by Emily Ballard and Natalie Marr. The aim is to create a community map of the local area that reveals hidden relations, engages the community and changes the way the area is thought about. We want to pool together local knowledge and collaborate in mapping an alternative map that that is both radical and playful. How we do this will be shaped by the participants and local residents. Maps will be both digital and analogue. Themes that we are interested in exploring include regeneration and community. This has a particular resonance as the location where we are based, 154 Freston Road, used to be an RBKC Day Care Centre and is about to be demolished as part of a wider regeneration of the Silchester Estate.

A slide show by Constantine Gras illustrated the social changes to North Kensington since the 18th century and how these have been mapped by authorities, planners, cartographers, community groups and artists. This part of Kensington has had a unique and radical history that has been shaped by the construction of major transport systems: the Grand Union Canal (1801), railway line out of Paddington (1840’s) and the Westway (1970). Also related to this is the issue of historical and contemporary social problems: overcrowding, lack of or poor housing, relative poverty and health inequalities. In 1958, the area was the site for one of the first race riots in England.

This prompted a group discussion about the following:

• Notting Barns Farm first shown on the 1740’s map of London by John Rocque. This is a completely rural and undeveloped part on the outskirts of the city of London.

• Identity of local area first systematically mapped in 1820 with Parish map of Kensington, that has palace and church as its centre. The Grand Union Canal was an important development in 1801 and heralding urbanization of area.

• 1841 map of the area showing the Hippodrome race course. This is an early documented account of local resistance to a development in the area. The hippodrome blocked footpaths in the area and local people tore down fences.

• Charles Booths Poverty map of 1890s. The area is now built up with tenement housing and defined as either poor or comfortable. Poor is defined as 18-21 shillings a week for a moderate family. This is an important map attempting to illustrate hidden poverty in London and paved the way for social welfare benefits.

• London County Council slum Clearance programme map for Latimer Road (1957). Several participants were interested to discover about this information in the London Metropolitan Archive and will undertake their own research.

• Pam McDonald map of the Walmer Road Area, This is a memory map of 1930s/40s and shows how families lived in the same area for generations. There is a strong community feel.

• Discussion about “community”. One local resident talked about the lack of community today as opposed to the recent past. Difficulty in modern society for people to interact, engage and communicate on a deep level. Children growing up now unaware of the history of the area. Need to communicate this.

• Participants were interested to learn about 1930s plans to build the Western Avenue Extension at a route that would be further south. Personal relief that this never happened as it probably would have meant that two local residents might not have met and got married.

• Motorway Development Trust map (1968) of how to use the space under the motor way for the benefit of the local community. Successful example of community activism that in the long-term shaped development and regeneration of the area.

• Map of the Free Independent Republic of Frestonia (1977) sparked debate. An innovative use of space / community when squatters moved into derelict property destined for slum clearance during the 1970s? Or was this an “alternative community” that held up regeneration of the area?

• The current Silchester Garages and Estate Regeneration was discussed and the concept of “urban villages”.

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