The Wisdom Of Crowds - Brockley Speaks

Brockley MAX, The Telegraph Hill Festival, The Summer Fayre, Open Studios, Hillaballoo, The Brockley Fun Run, The Christmas Market, The Brockley Cross Action Group, LoveLewisham, Friends of Brockley and Ladywell Cemetery, even Brockley Central Drinks...

Apparently, what Brockley really needs is some sort of event to build community cohesion. This was one of the concerns raised at the first ever Brockley Ward Assembly.

Unable to make it that evening, Brockley Central asked Cllr Walton for an update on how the event went. Here's what he reported:

"It was a very successful evening - we reckon there were up 120 people attending from across Brockley Ward, including a lot of young people.

The meeting was a table-talk facilitated session and feedback from the attendees was good. Though not a comprehensive list, the main issues that floated to the surface via the process were:

1. Improvement of the local area - flytipping, bulky waste etc, shopping facilities
2. Excuse the jargon 'Community Cohesion' - a need to do something for the community
3. Crime (sorry we have to call it community safety)
4. Youth provision - the relation of young people to crime

One unexpected concern was people urinating in the grounds of Goldsmiths College!

During the Assembly, we selected a co-ordinating group to take these priorities forward."

Brockley Central was a little incredulous that the need to stage more events to bring the local community together should be a key concern, given the wealth of community events that Brockley boasts (and the numerous other issues that might have been raised). However, it was pointed out to us that Brockley is a big ward and that most of the cultural events in SE4 take place on the south side of Lewisham Way - a point we grudgingly conceed.

Cllr Walton also provided us with a sample of some of the positive feedback which the event generated, much of which revolved around the catering...

"Need an opportunity to state how good the event was! I've really enjoyed this evening, for someone like me who has recently moved to the area it was a great way to meet local people and understand the issues of the area. Made me realise I've moved into a community atmosphere."

" I'm 17 and I found it very interesting, and on our table I think we got alot across to other people about what we think about our area."

"Very well organised - listening to residents positively talking about meeting members of the community and how much they enjoyed the meeting and its purpose. A very good cross section of the community including young people. A receptive community and excellent how the co-ordinating group selected and endorsed by all the clapping."

"Thankyou for the excellent refreshments - both quantity and variety were impressive."

Statistics compiled on the night suggest that, ethnically at least, the Assembly succeeded in attracting a reasonably representative sample of the local population:

32% of attendees were of a BME [Black / Minority Ethnic] background [versus ward profile 40%]
23% of attendees were of a Black British/Caribbean Mixed Caribbean/White background [versus ward profile 16%]
42% white British [versus ward profile 48.8%]
13% of attendees were disabled

Thanks to Dean for providing so much feedback.


Anonymous said...

There's not enough social mixing at many of these events.

Maybe its the marketing of them. I want to see the men who frequent the betting shops at Open House or digging along with the Brockley Action Group.

More garden parties, or street initiatives, so neighbours are semi forced to talk and collaborate, to achieve a goal.

Let's not congratulate ourselves too much or take for granted our community, like a garden it needs to be nutured for it to grow,.

Brockley Nick said...

At what point does it become the responsbility of the person who feels excluded to do something about it and take part in / come along to some of these events? I do take the point that many of these things are not to everyone's taste but things like Summer Fayre are extremely inclusive.

Likewise, just about every local group I ever speak to says they are desperate for more people to get involved and bring their ideas to the table.

Anyway, I'm obviously a big supporter of local events - more the merrier as far as I'm concerned, I just found it quite a surprising response. I suspect, as much as anything, people aren't actually very aware of what opportunities there actually are locally.

Anonymous said...

Nick, I take your point, but some people are not socially confident, or are shy, because they are not rich or articulate.

Sometimes I read this site where I see comments referring to other people in their community as chavs, low lifes etc. A lot of people seem to be judgemental and who wants to be on the end of that and feel demeaned.

About the summer fayre, people went in their groups, family, friends. They was merengue dancing but many are uptight or don't have the confidence to talk to others.

I maintain my point about activities that 'coerce' people into interacting with each other.

Anonymous said...

Not sure what the demographics add, but well done all.

Dean Walton said...

I think it's important to add that the process at this, the first meeting of the Brockley Assembly, was very different to the notion of a 'traditional' public meeting.

At the event every table had about 10 people on it and they worked through a series of priorities brought to the table by the people themselves - so at this stage I have to take it on trust that a local person genuinely felt this to be a priority and more importantly was able to get a group of others to support it.

However, it is now the job of the steering group to take these points forward.

With regard to addressing this issue at Ward level - an additional 'event' could be a relatively easy & quick win...however it may be that a more sophisticated approach might invole specific mention of the need to involve people on the other side of the A20 in these events - both St Johns area & Tanners Hill/Ship Street.

All the best


Anonymous said...

Yet another community "event" is far too easy an option. The council can buy in over-priced event organisers, print too many suspiciously glossy flyers, hope for good weather and say they have done what the community wants.

Much harder but much more useful in the long-run would be sustained investment in services for the elderly (in Telegraph Hill we are hanging on to the bus-service for those attending the lunch-club - just - but no-one new can go onto the list) and sorting out the mess that is the Youth Service (apologies if I am out of date on this comment).

And you can't force social interaction. Why should the men who frequent the betting shops come over all public spirited and dig for the community with BXAG. Much better to ensure that allotments are cheap,plentiful and accessible - so the community can mix there where there is something in it for the individuals.

Anonymous said...

Tamsin, talk about being overly literal, of course you don't force, but encourage strongly. Too often community spiritedness is seen as something only people who are middle class or who have their lives sorted out can do.

Those guys are in the bookies because there's nothing more appealing to do.
Make community spirited activities worthwhile in individual kudos or financial terms.

Anonymous said...

Make it worth their while financially? You mean slip em a few quid to go apple bobbing?

Anonymous said...

Yeah that's right. Hey why don't you come up with some constructive ideas instead of carping at the side.

Anonymous said...

I think one of the main problems with attempting to legislate for community cohesion is that strong communities - of the mutually-supportive type I assume we're all aspiring to here - are often a development of necessity. Even the sort of close-knit urban community of the past inevitably brought up at this point (you know the sort of thing; leaving your door unlocked, knowing all your neighbours, etc etc), if it existed in the first place, was probably a development of financial hardship and the need to pool resources; people were compelled to rely on each other.

I think the problem we face now in trying to foster a 'sense of community' from scratch is that the old imperatives have largely gone; the stick of poverty has (mercifully) snapped and the carrot of 'shared indentity' is looking a bit withered nowadays.

I'm not really sure where I'm going with this - too much coffee this afternoon, frankly - other than to say if we're really interested in communities then we need to start looking at things in rigorously utilitarian terms, i.e. that which can achieve the greatest benefit for the greates number of people. Give people an incentive to get involved, and they just might.

Anonymous said...

Well, not quite the same as slipping them a fiver to go apple bobbing, but on similar lines.

Could always stick money in the apples, I guess.

Anonymous said...

I recall the previous London Mayor gave pre loaded Oyster cards as rewards for positive socially interactive behaviour.

How about them apples?

Anonymous said...

I like a strong community and think it's important, but not to the extent that I want my tax money to bribe anti-social people into taking part in local events. They can sit at home watching telly.

Anonymous said...

If the external imperatives towards universal community cohesion aren't there - evil dock employers, Rachmanesque landlords, the Luftwaffe etc. does it matter that it is now lacking? Without such a common identity or purpose it is impossible to create and sheer waste of money to try. The smaller groups feeling beleaguered - Afro-Carribean elderly, gypsies, Korean refugees, etc. can and do build their own support networks to fight their particular battles. If the Council want to do something helpful, the generic support providers - Lewisham Pensioners' Forum, Voluntary Action Lewisham etc. should be strenghened and extended to help these groups - a much better use for public money than a "community cohesion building" event that would never work anyway.

Brockley as such is not a single community. The separate communities that already exist should be individually supported where a need is indentified. Let the Summer Fayre look after itself - but perhaps provide a grant to start something similar on the other side of the A20.

Anonymous said...

Well, quite. Bunting and merengue dancing are all very good, but i'm not sure how greater quantities of them will encourage social cohesion.

Tressilliana said...

I was reading that as meringue dancing which sounded a bit sticky.

Anonymous said...

'Community' is such a wonderfully flexible word.

There are lots of communities. You can define them by what people do, their heritage, their age, their hobbies, where exactly they live, where they work. People can be a member of several communities, especially when you count those based on the Internet.

The local council tends to define community politically. A geographic constituency of voters and the main consumers of council services.

Usually whenever I hear the word community bandied about I think it refers to baby buggies and old folks and ethnic minorities. None of those apply to me, so few of these community events have much relevance.

Anonymous said...

@ tresilliana - Like the Great Snowball Dance of Narnia, but with meringues rather than snowballs.
(What is it actually...?)

creepylesbo said...

I've mentioned the urination problem in New Cross generally to the public before. They either need to place those temporary urinals at bus stops from Friday evenings to Sunday mornings or provide a permanent solution.
Why they can't renovate the disused toilets in New Cross Gate and actually then have them open - like in Leciester Square is beyond me. A member of staff to deter any cottaging and that might solve some of it. The Haberdashers school opposite Sainsburys reeks of urine on a Saturday and Sunday morning and that can't be nice for the teachers and children on a Monday morning!

creepylesbo said...

Council. Not public. I've mentioned the public urination problem to the council. *goes off to ingest more caffeine*

Anonymous said...

The problem ouside the school is due to the wonderful privatisation of the bus routes. The 343 no longer goes into the New Cross Bus Depot - run by a different company who would charge too much for the privilege and so the drivers - on the bus stand at the end of the route and waiting/taking their break until it is time to turn around again have none of the normal facilities.

It would be great to re-open the ones in New Cross Gate/Hatcham - apparently a masterpiece of Victorian tiling. There was even a plan afoot at one stage to convert them into a resturant. However they are due to be totally demolished in the re-design of the road layout for the Kender triangle.

Anonymous said...

is it really caused by peeing bus drivers? I'd be surprised but if that is the case it's actually a breech of Health, Safety and Welafare arrangements. You have to allow some where to pee!

Mansize nappies? Just a thought.

Anonymous said...

it actually is an issue:
bbc news story
Though I can't vouch for whether this is the cause of the problem at NXG.

Anonymous said...

@ Monkeyboy. Indeed, yes. Major discussion about it on thehill forums a year or so back.

Anonymous said...

To be honest I would agree there is ineffective marketing of events in Brockley: I have lived in the area for 10 years! Often the people who are aware of & thus participate in events are those who have stronger links (born & bred there & or children who attend school in the area), money or time on their hands. Often I have read the South London Press to discover that an event has taken place the day before or something similar. I live in a flat & rarely get a copy of Lewisham Life. I would like to participate more but notice of forthcoming events is important.

patrick1971 said...

The Crofton Park Assembly was on last night; were there any other BCers there?

There was a pretty good turnout, over 100 people I would have thought. The format was that everyone was on a table of about eight people. You had to say two things you liked about the area and two things you didn't, then, from the resulting lists, select the main issue that you didn't like and discuss how it could be improved. Then each table presented its issue and solutions.

The two main issues in Crofton Park appear to be lack of stuff for kids to do (which I personally am fairly sceptical about, but there you go), and dog mess! One of the councillors there, Jackie Addison, is apparently spearheading an anti-dog poo initiative, and promised to let us know "how far in it" she was...

There was a paid facilitator for the evening, which I think worked really well; he kept things moving along and got attention back when the crowd started chattering. There was a good mix of people although not enough younger ones; at the age of 36 I was one of the youngest there. Not sure if the Crofton Park ward is demographically older or not.

It'll be interesting to see how these assemblies progress and how much actually gets done. What was quite striking was how much people didn't know; one chap on my table said he'd never seen any plans for Honor Oak Park station, when they're freely available online. Another woman claimed there was no disabled access to Crofton Park station, when there is. Someone else wanted free bags handed out to dog owners to clear up mess, and apparently Lewisham Council already offers this service. And so on.

The next one's on 13th October. We got a free shopping bag this time, so there's a free gift incentive to attend!

Would be interesting to hear if anyone else was there and what they thought.

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