Picturing The Good Future

On September 15th Blue Patch designed and hosted Picturing The Good Future’. Funded by Southwark Council.

This was a pilot for developing a constructive community-based ‘conversation’ with a focus on the Green Economy, post covid. We used a local church hall, an airy space where people could easily drop in. The hall is normally a nursery school, so we felt like kids sitting on tiny chairs! We set out tables which we covered with lining paper. Each table had a series of prompt questions. Participants roved from table to table, jotting their thoughts directly onto the paper.

The local community are divided over the LTNs, with heartfelt campaigns on both sides. The immediate issue of LTNs was to be put to one side, giving the community the chance to discover common ground. By imagining the area after 2024 – the immediate future, we’ll have around six years to balance out (Net Zero) our emissions.

Climate change is unquestionably urgent, but it’s hard for people in the UK to act when they cannot see how it will impact their day-to-day lives. The project was a start in seeking exciting local solutions to help us meet global carbon reduction targets. There is a good chance we can light up the passion and energy to work together if we can identify common solutions and start by implementing these.

To continue gathering suggestions we have added a form so everyone can participate.

Brief : a free, open participation project to explore the impact of covid on attitudes towards the environment, transport, community, leisure, work and wellbeing.

Location: Herne Hill Methodist Church, Half Moon Lane, South London.

Transcript of the hand written comments made by 22 people. 

Words in italics represent comment threads.  x = unable to read.  (?) = unclear

Headings are the prompt questions, presented to participants on the tables.

Do you remember the silence and birdsong of early lockdown?

  • Yes it improved quality of life
  • Yes – loved the first lockdown, loved the quiet, the birdsong, the quiet streets and parks
  • Yes, loved it but it was also scary
  • Yes it was memorable & thought provoking. The air felt better in areas usually highly polluted. But we all knew it was a temporary reprieve rather than ‘new normal’. Persuading people to leave their cars behind is the main challenge. High petrol tax is not the answer, hearts and minds must be won. 
  • I remember the tranquility, sometimes eerily quiet, very soothing for the ears, calm for the mind.
  • Yes – beautiful, we were briefly given a glimpse into another world.
  • Yes, it was great. Improved quality of life
  • Yes, very nice
  • Yes I remember the peace and quiet
  • Yes and I miss it

A new view from my window

  • Pedestrian-friendly streets, more green space and wildlife
  • More wildlife, bees, birds and insects
  • Not a view, but less polluted
  • More street benches and trees
  • Fewer cars, more electric busses and proper local public transport networks, encouraging people to use trains and busses more
  • Free public transport for everyone (or very, very cheap). For this, the government would have to subsidise public transport massively and would have to be persuaded of benefits. All electric bus, rail networks,’smarter’ service provision, better adapted to ‘peak-usage times’ and ability to vary timetable on regular trains to respond to use and public need
  • More people working from home on a regular basis (not the end of the office but a more flexible way of working.
  • People sitting round a xxxxxxx? On my street (socially distanced) playing xxxxx?
  • Landscape, nature, sun, rain
  • No planes. Bird feeders galore, No fences or locked doors so neighbours can be like birds, cats and dogs etc. 
  • No traffic pile-up in the morning

Has covid made you think differently?

  • What do we teach our children about the world and how it works, the choices they make, how do we support them in their growing up?
  • How far do we live from our family if we can’t travel? What are the new opportunities that weren’t there before – such as Wifi (?) It is now so much easier and we have the opportunity to make a substantial change to our life which was not there before.
  • It made me value my family as the most important part of my life and I have loved seeing them every day
  • Made me appreciate small, everyday activities of daily life
  • Yes, it also highlighted my sense of community and made me wish government and the establishment would do more to support community activities and local environmental issues
  • Covid has made us more aware of other people, our neighbours, their needs, how we can help each other, social responsibility
  • The pandemic raised my appreciation of the NHS. It changed my view about working in an office which seems unnecessary and confining. I had time to undertake meditation first thing every morning and feel quite liberated, with a different view of what’s important and how much of what we ‘worry’ about isn’t that important. Covid made me rethink my exercise strategy and I ended up cycling on local streets at quiet hours. Much better than commuting to work on my bike, in city traffic.
  • Not really, but it has marked us all. It’s made me appreciate simple things and pleasures even more.

What amenities would make me want to walk, cycle, take public transport to visit my local high streets?

  • Less automobiles on the street, make it pedestrian friendly
  • More cycle racks, cycle lanes and pollution controls
  • Nice coffee shops, farmers markets, cycle lanes
  • Second all these!! Plus less supermarket chains. Allow local people to sell their products by lowering rents and rates
  • More bicycle lokcing facilities
  • Safer roads, less cars
  • Good shops, road closures
  • Road closures cause shops to go bankrupt
  • Cycle lanes
  • Closing the roads
  • More cycle lanes

For older locals

  • More integration of older and younger locals
  • Older locals being welcomed in Youth Clubs
  • Promote Southwark Pensioners Group. Age UK, Linkage etc. Have ‘outreach workers’ to contact elderly. 
  • Yes to more events
  • More help for the pensioners
  • Stop dividing Dulwich in two so East must never meet West, we are one community. Remove road closures to allow free movement and not penalise a few roads (especially those with schools) while others are protected.
  • More events (like this) or dance classes, chess and other clubs or interest groups. People are lonely and we don’t even know!

What would improve local health and wellbeing?

  • One local shopkeeper learned and used the first names of customers during the pandemic. Shopping became a different and much nicer experience, like we’re all in this together. 
  • More open / community space for meditation and mindfulness
  • More trains / busses /  maps. Lifts at North Dulwich and East Dulwich Train Stations
  • Police stopping illegally used e-scooters
  • More funding for local government, mental health + (?). NHS, green economy. LESS DISCORD
  • Pollution control methods. Local produce at accessible prices
  • Southwark Council must listen to all residents, not just the young and fit.
  • Remove all road closures and timed barriers so free movement at all hours especially East to West. Dulwich is one community
  • Better funding of the NHS & classes encouraging care and kindness
  • More birdsong, less music blasting out of cars. More walking and cycling, less pollution. More locally grown food – support local farmers
  • Encourage electric cars by making more charging points available.
  • Remember that not everyone is young and able
  • More butchers, xx toy shops xxxx

Lessons from 2020 / 21 that are useful to remember?

  • Enjoy small things in life, getting to know one’s own immediate locality in (more) detail
  • Shop local
  • Being happy about small, local events
  • Walking and cycling more. Volunteering for the NHS
  • Don’t take zoom calls with your back to the window
  • Amazon is great
  • No it’s not
  • Keep local
  • We don’t need stuff
  • Communal Christmas carols on Beckwith Rd was possible
  • Tory government is incompetent 
  • Yes agree
  • But how do we get rid of them?
  • We can walk rather than drive. We can help our neighbours more
  • Sharing
  • Importance of friends and family
  • Slow down
  • Time is important, prioritize mental health

September 15th 2024 – What has changed?

  • Looking out of a window at a planeless sky filled with bright colourful kites
  • Streets with bike lanes and pedestrian priority with social gathering points and lots of greenery. Innovate transport systems designed for elderly / disabled people so they can get fresh air, maintain fitness and be included in their community spaces. Access routes for essential delivery / emergency access vehicles embedded into grassed over roads. Nature is everywhere. The sound of birds and insects fills the air; flowers and trees replace tarmac. Kids playing, all ages interacting. Free / cheap, eco-friendly public transport, including proper access for people with disabilities. Local employment opportunities increase. Empty shops now in full use, local produce, new circular economy depots, retrofitted homes, repair and restoration workshops, renewable energy, community drop-in centres, health check up opportunities, combined with socialising, sensibly priced essential goods, community swap shops, welcoming spaces for people that have no money to spend. Mitigation of isolation and loneliness. Cultural, gender and age gaps vanish, welcome all customs, cuisine, faiths, non-faiths…  a mixed, lively community. We have finally all joined forces with people, from local communities around the world, to stop climate change. From the event organiser.

A new look for the high streets?

  • No fast fashion 
  • Good idea
  • Fewer cars, more paved areas
  • Dulwich Village should be shut off to cars
  • What about businesses that are losing trade – no cars – no shops?
  • Turn all empty shops into flats / housing. I used to live in the middle of town, in a converted shop, no problem
  • Make it pedestrian-friendly. More spaces for plants and flowers. Make it look more communal, a space where people can enjoy essential shopping. Things are going to change with things going digital / online. There will be more empty shops. Convert them to affordable housing.
  • Less chains, or if they are, be reduced in size. More locally grown and produced goods. Give people opportunity by offering xxx xxx place 
  • Fewer chains and fast food shops, more local businesses
  • Lots of ‘pop-up’ shops e.g community workshops e.g kite-making and speed knitting workshops
  • One month social (?) art, one month performance, one month live art, one month dance – quicker changeover for a lively, uninhibited approach, like 3 days only? An afternoon to celebrate different arts. 
  • More open spaces
  • Oxfam shops are a destination of choice. Please can we have more charity shops?
  • Independent, local shops must offer high quality service to compete with supermarkets
  • Rents need to come down

What could empty shops be used for?

  • Exhibition spaces
  • Repair shops
  • Charity shops
  • More housing
  • Help the poor
  • Affordable housing for poor
  • Re-use, recycling centres
  • Refill station
  • Creative hubs for young people
  • Affordable housing
  • Offer to local people at reduced costs. Or to clubs, community groups? Better than empty!
  • Housing
  • Housing for the vulnerable (homeless)
  • Home-working spaces or quiet study spaces for people that can’t easily work or study at home?
  • Community workshops 

Imagine your own street differently

  • With all the new closed to motor vehicles roads now in place, we can celebrate with (a) monthly parties, tables laid out with picnic food that each flat resident makes, to enjoy birdsong and to listen to neighbours. Closed roads = neighbourliness and community spirit.
  • No traffic outside rush hours (even better – no traffic at all). Strict enforcement of anti-noise and anti-social behaviour rules
  • Less traffic would be perfect
  • More greening, easy and cheap to implement
  • It is quite perfect? I live in a cul-de-sac.
  • I would love a roadblock in my street
  • I like my street, but people in the area are a bit unfriendly, too stuck in their ways, protecting their way of life. What happened to looking out for each other? Helping those who need it?

Climate change, have you got more worried in the last year?

  • Definitely. One thing – street infrastructure (e.g. sewage) not fit for the increasing number of new builds. My street is flooded every time it rains!
  • Not sure – can we adapt better to these changes?The world has been changing all the time, we just didn’t talk about it – I have started doing more, be kinder to the environment, be less consumerist, buy less, walk more,
  • Less worried than ever before, more philosophical . Que sera sera etc. I have always tried to be ‘green’, now everyone else is catching on.
  • No
  • Yes nobody should be driving unless there is an emergency
  • Yes, explain to consumers, (especially the young) the environmental impact of fast fashion, fast food, fast travel etc. Should be taught in schools and reinforced on TV, social media
  • I guess people are more informed about the topic. Lockdown may also help slowing down as there were less destructive industrial activities. However it is still a worrying thought for me,
  • Yes absolutely. Links to causes of pandemic and more natural disasters due to climate change. It’s happening and will get worse. Fears for future generations.
  • I was less worried during lockdown but now I am more worried than ever before
  • I am very worried that the pandemic, Trump, Boris, Brexit and other ‘issues of the day’ have shunted climate change onto the back burner and that time is running out quickly. When we look back we will regret this. Government needs to take the lead on this very quickly, with meaningful and bold initiatives.
  • Yes it’s getting worse, take action
  • I have got less worried. I am very lucky -+ I really appreciate it all – family –  garden – home. But I worry about my children’s future + and less fortunate people globally that climate impacts now.

Ideas to reduce energy loss in the home?

  • Open up day centres for the older / lonely people who slip under the radar. Call them libraries or hubs, but remove the stigma of people feeling alone
  • Great idea!
  • Our xxxxx is cosy – but not our house (it) lets heat out more – so will insulate better and wear more layers
  • Wear more layers, make sure your doors and closed
  • Lower bills
  • Heat less, put more jumpers on? 
  • Making sure inside doors in houses are closed
  • Great idea!
  • Insulate homes better – new builds + retrofitting. More information needed about heat loss through roofs and different kinds of roof insulation, cavity wall insulation, double and triple glazing etc. Help the public make decisions on these measures, with subsidies if necessary. Is spray foam insulation good or bad? We need to know (in order) to make informed choices.
  • Tax incentives and regulations (nudges and shoves)
  • Incentives for energy efficient buildings. Toughen laws to encourage better insulation
  • Subsidise double glazing, insulation and solar panels in old buildings
  • Government should seriously consider limiting access to petrol and other measures to stimulate transition to combustion-free transport
  • Solar panels, wear jumpers not tee-shirts but layers that can easily breathe, instead of putting the heating on. Keep warm by running up and down on the spot. Hold onto bannister or table if your hips or back needs support, carry on running
  • Mandatory green solutions for all new builds

Fresh thinking for local leisure + pleasure

  • More free music events
  • Opportunities for yoga, pilates etc in local parks to help the mental and physical health of residents
  • More parks and open spaces for physical activities. Create walking trails around large parks
  • Sort out Dulwich Leisure Centre asap. It does not allow access for all those who could benefit
  • Outside exercise classes
  •  Circus:  swings, dressing up, fancy dress
  • Outdoor quizzes for quick crossword-lovers
  • More ‘grass than streets’. Close more streets to traffic and lay grass for children to play.
  • Lidos and cycle lanes
  • Close residential roads so children can play outside together without going to parks.
  • Love lido park
  • Open up private gardens and college grounds to all children

Would you like nature to have a greater presence in our community – when, where and how? 

  • Yes more community allotments
  • Absolutely less concrete, more trees, parks, flowers. Less cars on the roads, for children to play outside again. On main roads cars decrease so cyclists can feel safer. I don’t mind road closure!
  • More trees lining roads
  • That’s a no brainer for me, I would love more green space, communal gardens, parks, green belts, protected areas for wildlife, national parks etc.
  • YES!
  • Create nature reserves
  • Be selective about concerts in parks. Some (e.g Wireless Festival) destroy parks
  • Yes, let’s rewild it all with Rowan and Holly, for red berries popular with birds.
  • Build kingdoms for insects, bugs love living in wood that’s got loads of holes /voids
  • Beech hedges and grow hazel, it grows before your eyes…then cut and weave with it, make containers and other helpful things e.g hazel fences,gates, baskets. White poplar makes a great sound in the wind. 
  • Be nice to have cats and their owners meet up regularly in their neighbourhoods.
  • Wildflowers e.f Hollyhocks, black eyed daisies, wild grasses, salad plants in paving cracks…

What’s your perfect work-life balance? 

  • Flexibility to decide where I want to work from (some Scandinavian countries do this already)
  • Flexible / hybrid working. Work 3 day from home and two days from office
  • Flexibility
  • 4 / 3 day work week
  • I love working but it’s good not to commute
  • Complete control! I work when I want to, whatever day + time. (hard choice between work + life!  Maybe work v. play a little. I think work can be play too.
  • Mix of working from home and studio
  • Ideally a daily swim + visit to the pub, galleries, cinemas, theatre after working 8 hour day
  • Retirement and voluntary work

Utopian ideas from the past and future

  • Respect nature and create safe havens for wildlife
  • Make cycling more appealing & the default mode of transport for working people. Find out how other countries (Netherlands, Denmark) do this better.
  • Plant more trees and maintain them properly
  • Every new build should have solar panels & water butt (for garden if there is one)
  • Government grants for solar panels, water butts, domestic wind turbines, insulation, double glazing etc. (Not the 6 month application period for insulation grant but rolling programme)
  • Have more outdoor swimming pools. Streets in the sky
  • One world, we are all equal. Socialism. Abolish, ban religion
  • We only consume what we need and always re-use, recycle
  • Urban planning, don’t put more houses in, give it to leisure (?)  parks.We don’t spend enough time together as a community! What happened to neighbours just chatting outside?
  • We all wear wings and fly
  • People smile and say hello when they pass in the street, even if strangers.
  • Fewer people
  • The UK is part of the EU & there is complete freedom of movement & tolerance between nations, cultures and ethnicities.

End:

Key takeaways: To hold the event during the day as an open drop-in. Include children, with areas for different age groups to add their ideas and views using drawing and speech. To create ‘multiple choice style responses so common interests can be seen at a glance. A larger group than this pilot and it would have taken a great many people to collate then group the replies so that projects can be identified as actionable.

The benefit of letting people sit quietly and concentrate was it prevented confrontation over current ‘hot topics’, creating space for deeper and more personal reflection, using climate change as the focus.