Conversations about Tottenham / by Felix Mortimer

Over the past two weeks we have been part of several conversations which placed us in a conversation about the future of Ashley Road, N17, Tottenham Hale, Tottenham, Haringey and London. These conversations were convened by Haringey Council, Create, Green Rooms Hotel, The Mill Co. Project, LIFT and ourselves. This blog post will evolve with provocations and ideas which were proposed in conversations which represented different subsections of people all with an interest in the future of Tottenham; however that is constituted and defined. 

 Chicken Town on Tottenham Green full of chat after the round table at BGAC

Chicken Town on Tottenham Green full of chat after the round table at BGAC

Tottenham Green (N15) - Round-table at the Bernie Grant Arts Centre (organised by CREATE and Haringey Council)

Organised by Hadrian from CREATE. We gathered in the theatre together with LIFT, Punchdrunk, Block 9, T.H.I.S., The Mill Co. Project, Argent, the GLA, The Barbican, Jackson's Lane, the CEO and Leaders of Haringey Council and assorted artists and makers. The conversation was open, like latter-day knights of the roundtable, we crunched through ideas about gentrification, regeneration and the uncomfortable role of the artist within both.

'Artists are the shock-troops of gentrification' - Grayson Perry

In some moments these tensions rose to the surface, we heard from T.H.I.S. who were trying to engage with the community from their ex-CoE Church, the BGAC and their £500k a year running costs, how I was scared to talk to the housing developers when they came to have pizza at Styx. Many people expressed frustrations at not being linked up, not being visible, or being connected to the council, housing developers and arbiters of change in our community. 

We heard that Haringey is made up of 27.5% 0-19 year olds, and 79.8% ethnic minorities. 

Questions:

How do artists stay secure working communities?

How do artists make their work more visible to those that might benefit?

How do we quantify our value in a way that isn't through money?

How can we come together to create an action or happening which channels the skills of the organisations in the area. 

The meeting was followed by Chicken skin at ChickenTown, conversations about the light in Wood Green and moving to Liverpool. 

 Green Rooms Hotel

Green Rooms Hotel

Wood Green (N22) - Q&A at The Green Rooms Hotel (organised by Placeful and the Mill Co Project)

Quantifying value was core to the conversation at Wood Green's Art Hotel, Green Rooms. Shawn McLearan from New York based social investment organisation Placeful. He started by talking about the mennonites who fit their tractors with steel wheels to ensure their communities stay small as they can only farm a precise area. Through regulating technology they build a stronger community. He also talked about Dan Barber and his vertically integrated farming practices which chart food from manure, through soil, through animals to the table. He emphasised how we should build empathy into how we shape communities. 

The conversation opened into a Q&A, investment, visibility, how space is allocated and how we emerge out of the other end of regeneration and change preserving some of the experiments and excitement which was milled in the meanwhile.

 Photo: Jalaikon for LIFT

Photo: Jalaikon for LIFT

Tottenham Hale (N17) - Open Space discussion (organised by LIFT and STYX)

Jorge led the discussion in a large circle. After introductions, he invited people to suggest provocations which would form the anchor for 90 minutes of discussion. Hugh suggested how does community art stay community-led and scale? George suggested resisting gentrification, I suggested how do we plan an action / celebration together. 

We gathered in groups, I spent most of my time speaking to a man who ran a children's reviewing website about how we define Tottenham, how we define community and the tension between having a representative group and one individual with drive organising the event. 

Coming back together we heard from the groups, and re-introduced ourselves but this time with something we could provoke from others. I then spent some time talking to Hadrian from CREATE and Steve from Block 9 outside. People huddled around the fire. 

Tottenham Hale (N17) - Presentation at STYX (organised by Haringey Council and Argent)

Later in the week, Argent and Haringey Council organised a conversation about workspace provision in the borough. I left this quite early and will get Josh to write a summary.