Tag Archives: east London

Collaborating with east London’s university community

Hester Gartrell, Senior Outreach and Access Officer for Stratford discusses the East London Collaboration Day that she organised with universities operating in east London. She also discusses the onus behind creating the East London Widening Participation Forum. 

While many might be used to universities coming together to recruit students at Higher Education Fairs, on the 25 February we brought universities together for a slightly different reason. 

Rather than just showcasing the courses offered by different universities, the East London Universities Collaboration Day aimed to make educational professionals working in schools, colleges and other organisations more aware of the outreach and widening participation offer available from universities based in east London.  

We all know that with increasing workloads and lots of things to juggle, it can often be difficult for teachers or other educational professionals to know who to contact at a university. Bring into the mix that universities have different specialties and their access work might focus on different groups and you have a situation where education professionals want to engage their students with the idea of university but don’t know where to start.  

This event that I set up and run in partnership with China Anya, Senior Outreach Officer at Loughborough University of London aimed to address this by giving people the opportunity to find out about the different universities specialities and meet face to face with widening participation teams. Attendees had the chance to network with universities and hear more about their outreach work, as well as take part in a workshop and panel session which covered topics such as student wellbeing, part-time study and funding options.  

Ten universities attended including established east London Higher Education institutions such as Queen Mary and the University of East London, and more recent arrivals to the area including Loughborough, Coventry and Staffordshire Universities 

The day was part of a wider initiative, the East London Widening Participation Forum that was set up in 2019 as part of the Access and Engagement Department’s outreach work in the Borough of Newham.  

It’s important that universities work together to help those who face barriers to accessing higher education. With lots of universities coming to east London as part of developments such as the Olympic park, 2019 seemed like the perfect time to bring established east London universities and more recent arrivals together. The aim of the forum is to see how we can work in partnership to help east Londoners take advantage of the activities and information about Higher Education offered by our forum’s members – who are right on their doorstep! 

We’re looking forward to seeing where the forum goes from here and are definitely hoping to run more workshops and events. We had over 30 professionals come along to the event and feedback from attendees has been great. There’s clearly an appetite for universities to come together and share their knowledge and expertise in a collaborative way. 




East London In Flux II

This post was originally published on the blog Up Your Street.

The thing with most community engagement activities is that the people who put on the show couldn’t care less if you’re there or not. Sometimes the engagement exercises target seniors: When they don’t then the senior wannabee participant is more than invisible. This I have known for ages and corporate engagers be wise that many oldies are on your case.

East London in Flux presented by Fundamental Architectural Inclusion d.o.b. 2003 and Birkbeck, University of London is different to all of the above and valuable to the ethos of community engagement. It’s a programme delivered with passion. Its participants are encouraged to join in and given the confidence to do so. And the sandwiches are nutritious, full, tasty and textured.

Today the room in Birkbeck, University of London in the new Stratford E15  (aka USS hosted by community outreach officer Patrice Buddington) was bursting and a-buzzin’. We came from Stratford, Hackney, Forest Gate, Leyton, Romford, Mauritius and other places north of Watford. Imagine!

As for architecure, I can’t get over the fact that the Uni building is built on one of the meanest pot-holed car-parks of back in the day. Those days when the stealthiest of creeping car-park attendants would sneak out of the shadows: Those times when the parking machine swallowed pound coins then failed to deliver the ticket. Those were the days when you left the theatre production or pre Olympic and Paralympic Games 2012 pop-up workshops early so as not to fork out another load of coins.

The main attraction of this the first in a series of presentations and day-long workshops was the architect-guided walk around the Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park. Laid on were electric scooters, wheelchairs and taxis for the less mobile. The sun shone too. The morning session was all about how architects used any available terrain to construct the Olympic cities. Hitler’s Games came out top in the we- did- it poll not only because the construction/ideological team used media to the hilt when the concept of media as a corporate entity was not invented yet. Even the athletes’ village was great….bungalows. Ooh! give me one.

The heart-warming bit is how junior school kiddies are involved through Architectural in learning through model-making and discussion their role in the Legacy of the London 2012 Games.

Twas brillig.


Post-War and Post-Olympics: East London, Architecture and Regeneration, Across the Generations

This post was contributed by Dr Leslie Topp, Senior Lecturer in the History of Architecture in Birkbeck’s Department of History of Art and Screen Media.

What is regeneration? What builds community? And who defines and steers these processes? Architects, planners, politicians, the public? The cold post-Olympic winter, with the built and planned legacy of those games forming around us, seemed a good time to bring local people together to discuss these questions. The day workshop, which was held at the historic House Mill in Bromley-by-Bow on 23 February 2013, was a collaboration between Fundamental Architectural Inclusion, an architecture centre based in Newham, and Birkbeck’s Department of History of Art and Screen Media. Funding was generously provided by the Association of Art Historians Initiatives Fund.

The 10 participants were drawn from the first and second years of Birkbeck’s innovative Certificate in HE in Understanding Visual Arts, which is run out of the Rosetta Art Centre in Newham, and the group of young people which Fundamental works with in initiatives like the Architecture Crew and the Legacy Youth Panel, who are regularly consulted on regeneration plans around the Olympics and its legacy.  All local to East London (Newham, Tower Hamlets, Hackney, Waltham Forest), the workshop participants had experienced the current wave of regeneration first hand, and knew too the experience of living in the neighbourhoods and estates built in the post-war years.  They were also (the Birkbeck students) well versed in cultural history, and (the Fundamental participants) in architecture and planning, and the combination of life experience, knowledge and confidence in discussion made for a stimulating and compelling day.

We watched two films, both dealing with ambitious utopian plans for the rebuilding of large sections of Newham. One was made in 2008 by the Architecture Crew, a group of young people 13-19 years old, who Fundamental was working with. The other was made in 1948, by the then West Ham Borough’s Architecture and Planning Office, about the plans for rebuilding West Ham after the extensive destruction caused by the 1940-41 air raids.  One of the most striking differences between them, which emerged strongly through the subsequent discussions, was that while the first offered a ‘bottom up’ perspective, and was a critical enquiry by some of the people who’d be most strongly affected by the regeneration, the second was a piece of ‘top down’ propaganda, representing an ‘experts know best’ position. A lively debate broke out about the extent to which things had or had not changed in this respect since the post-war era. Some argued that while lip service is paid to community consultation, the ‘community’ has very little actual impact on the plans that are carried out. Nick Edwards, the director of Fundamental, and the young people who came along to the workshop, gave a nuanced sense of the particular ways in which people could have an impact on plans (though it was clear that to do this involved a considerable sustained effort over a long period of time.)

Another topic that kept cropping up was mobility. On the one hand, as one participant pointed out, East London has always been a place people move on from when they had the means to do so. Others wondered though whether that may now change – with the regeneration around the Olympics, East London had the potential now to be a place where people would want to stay, or come back to. But the new transport infrastructure, and the increased opportunities to move around, (including Birkbeck’s own courses, such as the Cert HE Understanding Visual Arts, that bring students out to East London and into Bloomsbury) mean that East London is now more connected than ever to the world beyond it. The parts of East London that had been very separate from each other, with some people never venturing much beyond their immediate neighbourhoods, had become more interconnected as well. The homogeneity and static, inward looking quality of the post-war estates (seen as the height of modernity in the 1948 film) were being directly challenged by the latest wave of regeneration.

An extra unexpected treat at lunchtime – enthusiastically taken up by all the workshop participants, despite the cold – was a tour around the Grade One listed 18th century House Mill. History in East London doesn’t begin with the Blitz!