A Table of Contents:
The Grove Neighbourhood Centre in Hammersmith, London: Successful Achievement of Forgotten Urban Community Development in the 1970s
5-3-2 An Outline of the Grove Neighbour Centre
5-3-3 Community Centre in Urban Spaces- Do They Lack A Local Communities?
5-3-4 An Experiment of Community Development in Urban Cities in the 1970s
5-3-5 Success of Forgotten Development Project
5-3-4 An Experiment of Community Development in Urban Cities in the 1970s
1) Hammersmith Community Development Project
A document in which the Committee for City Poverty explains the purpose of the Hammersmith Community Development Project to the committee members and other interested parties (dated 28 August, 1972) as: gthere is an increasing polarization of different income groups in British cities and a trend for the poor and the poorest to be concentrated in the twilight zones. ... The gap between the lowest and highest incomes is widening.h (p.1) In addition, a magazine article titled gWaking neighbourhoodh describes the aims of the Hammersmith Community Development Project and the Committee for City Poverty (January, 1972) as follows:
The Committee for City Poverty, ... has taken a much more judicious and long-term view of community work in Notting Hill and North Kensington, and argued that there are certain precise achievements - such as the 1967 summer project, the Golborne Neighbourhood Council and the West London Fair Housing Group. ... The City Poverty Committee is concerned with all forms of city poverty and has embarked upon a five-year programme to bring aid to the twilight areas of our cities. ... The City Poverty Committee believes that the people most affected by the acute social problems of the inner city should participate fully in finding solutions. ... And the Hammersmith Community Development Project is intended to show how this situation might be rectified at the local level. ...
In the summer of 1972 three placement students were allocated to Hammersmith, and to the Grove ward in particular, in order to carry out a preliminary survey. ... The Hammersmith social services department seconded a full-time social worker to the project. ... The City Parochial Foundation has provided the bulk of the annual budget of 7,500 per annum for the first two years1 and the Galoust Gulbenkian Foundation has made itself responsible for that part of the budget allocated to research and training. The hope is that after the initial two or three years, when the project has vindicated itself and proved its worth, the local authority will undertake a major financial responsibility for the second phase. ... The aims of the project, at this stage, can be defined as follows:
1. To explore the possibility of a neighbourhood council for the Grove ward in the belief that such a council is both the most democratic and also the most effective community structure for radical action in an inner city area.
2. To organise a project centre which can be used by local residents for the purpose of achieving maximum take-up of welfare benefits, the exercise of their social rights, and to enable them to define their needs in respect of housing, environment, education, employment, and community activity.
3. To create a local unit for research, evaluation and training. A primary object of the unit will be to service the Hammersmith Community Development Project but, of equal importance, will be the comparison of the progress of the project with similar projects elsewhere. (pp.78-79)
The City Poverty Committee is a nationwide charitable organisation participated in by scholars and politicians including Members of Parliament. Although it is not a religious organisation, the Rev. David Mason, who was a Methodist minister in Hammersmith at that time, was appointed Director to the Hammersmith Community Development Project. Based on the idea that poverty and deprivation can only be solved with the active participation of the citizens themselves, a Neighbourhood Council was established in the 1960s in a corner of Notting Hill, an area notorious for race riots due to the widening gap between rich and poor. The Committee undertook a series of community developments such as planning and holding a carnival. It was this Committee for City Poverty which was responsible for the experiment called the Hammersmith Development Project in the 1970s. However, why was the Grove chosen for the project amongst a number of Londonfs gtwilight areash?
gThe First Report 1972-73h of the Hammersmith Community Development Project refers to the Hammersmith Borough:
Many imaginative and successful community programmes have been pioneered in this difficult area that were of immense significance both to the immediate neighbourhood and further afield. Unfortunately they failed frequently to receive the evaluation and appreciation that they merited and this because of a national prejudice that Notting Hill is different somehow from other superficially similar inner city neighbourhoods. ...Community work in Notting Hill has been artificially constrained and inhibited by an unbalanced political situation. Notting Hill is part - the poorer part - of the Royal Borough of Kensington and Chelsea, probably the second richest borough in London. ...
The Committee needed to find an area where they can develop their own activities with the help of the local government but at the same time maintain some distance. The Committee established good relationships with a number of the leading members of the majority party in the London Borough of Hammersmith and won their personal respect and awoken[sic] their genuine interest in the community work approach to social issues. Another consideration was that Hammersmith was a traditionally working class Inner London Borough and was likely therefore to be well disposed to community action, and able to tolerate, and perhaps even understand, a radical sometimes controversial, approach to urban problems. (pp.1-2)
The following are four reasons for choosing the Grove Ward in the Hammersmith Borough:
It is fairly common ground that the natural catchment area for a community development project is a population of approximately ten to eleven thousand people.... The Grove Ward [had] a population of 10,310 in 1966 (1971 Census-9,806 persons2)....
Another factor that weighed in favour of the Grove Ward was that it was as central a ward geographically as any in the Borough and only five minutesf walk to the Town Hall from the two main Underground stations, and bounded by the major roads. If any ward can be described as ginner cityh, the Grove Ward would seem to qualify for this description. c
An additional consideration was that there was no existing community work in Grove Ward and that therefore the Project would not pose a threat to any ongoing group, nor would it be duplicating work already begun by other organisations. The Grove Ward was virgin soil and, in many ways, this made it an ideal neighbourhood in which to begin work, since there was no history of past mistakes and abortive initiatives to overcome.
The decisive factor ... was that Grove Ward was so ordinaryand so normal! There was no great black/white tension as in certain clusters of streets in Notting Hill over the years. There was no stark, glaring poverty. ... Social problems there are, but they are still manageable and they have not yet assumed such proportions as to be beyond control. It is still possible to inject the necessary antidote to offset and prevent social malaise and breakdown. Grove Ward, therefore, is a median or average ward, though with a tendency to decline rapidly over the next decade unless appropriate positive urban policies are pursued. Therefore Grove Ward is a representative inner city ward, typical of hundreds of others in the London Boroughs and also a viable model for similar wards in Leeds, Birmingham, Manchester, etc. (p.3)
The Project selected Grove because it was a typical English urban poverty area where there was still plenty of scope for solving problems in terms of attempting urban community development. How did the Grove residents respond to such development project activities from outside areas?
gThe First Report 1972-73,h details the establishment of the Neighbourhood Council (pp. 4-6). While discussion with the Hammersmith Borough proceeded, the Hammersmith Community Development Project began its activities in the Grove Ward in September 1972. They researched the actual situation in the ward with social-workers sent from Hammersmith. Meanwhile they also created a network of local co-operators with an introduction from the Borough Councillors; and they held a public meeting every month. In January, 1973, a preliminary project team to promote the Hammersmith Project was established and this group had neither Borough Councillors nor London Assembly Committee Members.
They had resolved that the first Public Meeting was to be held on the 23rd of January and the first election of the Neighbourhood Councillors in the third weekend of June, 1973. They also decided to produce a community newspaper with the help of six volunteers who were residents of the Grove Ward. The newspaper was titled gNeighbours, W 6h and it claimed to be gthe smallest newspaper in Londonh. Three thousand free copies were distributed once a month to all households in the Grove Ward. Its contents were about local news as well as the need for a Neighbourhood Council. It served as an information source to convince residents of the necessity of establishing a local council to reflect their own opinion. Meanwhile the Project Team was producing a Council Constitution. In March, just before the Council was formed, they had opened the Neighbourhood Centre with the help of the Notting Hill Housing Trust3 which granted the use of an old house in the Ward free of charge.
The election was held on Saturday and Sunday, June 17th and 18th 1973. The Grove Ward was divided into 18 small electoral areas, each division consisting of one street or a cluster of streets, and thirty-four candidates contesting seats. The electors had to be aged 18 years or over, regardless of nationality, as long as they were residents of the Grove ward. Seven of the nineteen councillors were women. Nine of the neighbourhood councillors were less than 45 years of age, and three were in their twenties. A Spaniard and West Indian were elected. There was an interesting balance of nationalities and occupations including a Roman Catholic Sister, a T.V. producer, an electrician, a building worker, a telephone operator, and housewives and so forth.4
The first meeting of the newly elected body took place five days later. They chose the chairperson, the vice-chairperson, the treasurer, and the secretary, then they decided to continue to produce gNeighbours W6h. The aims and objects of the council are defined in the Neighbourhood Council Constitution, Article 2, in the followings (2. Objects):
(a) To represent local opinion on any matter which concerns the community electing it. (b) To press Governmental and other public or local authorities and charitable bodies and all other interests in the area to tale such actions as is either necessary or desirable. (c) To promote a widespread and well-informed interest in local government and local affairs. (d) To undertake any lawful activity to the benefit of the people of Grove Ward.5
On 13th July, The Grove Neighbourhood Council held an open community meeting and began its activity. They discussed traffic problems. The Council called in the traffic consultant from the Town Hall and had him explain the redevelopment of the shopping area, a new road plan and so forth. Afterwards, they regularly held open meetings to discuss local issues and reported to the borough and arranged a place for discussion in case of need. At its start the Centre employed one staff member. The centre as a base, they consulted with local residents regarding issues such as housing problems, promoted the creation of groups for childcare support and elderly pensioners. They have now been managing various activities for more than thirty years. They held a jumble sale to raise funds for the centre. They also sent food parcels to pensioners at Christmas, helped maintain peoplefs living during social welfare services breaks, and held an outdoor carnival in the summer. Therefore they developed the kinds of activities in which local residents were able to be directly involved and events in which they could participate. For public meetings and bazaars, if there were too many people, they rented space from churches in the neighbourhood.6
The front page of Neighbours W.6 , the Christmas issue, December 1973 ZOOM
The Hammersmith Community Development Project was intended as a support for organising the community and its activities, but it was not a body of residentsf organisations. After the Grove Neighbourhood Council was elected, how did the Project take part in its organisation? gThe First Report 1972-73h (pp.17-19) explains this point:
What we needed to define was the role of the Hammersmith Community Development Project since the Grove Neighbourhood Council had been elected. It was important that the newly elected council should be autonomous, independent, and master in its own house. It would be wrong, and contrary to the first principles of community development, for the Project to manipulate or patronise or indirectly control the neighbourhood council. If requested, the Project offers expert support.
The following direction defines how the project continued to support the Neighbourhood Council (p.19):
1. Maintain and increase the ground swell of popular support for community activities generally, and the Neighbourhood Council in particular, so that there exists the necessary mass participation in decision making at the Ward level.
2. Develop slowly an individual series of gtrainingh occasions that enable ordinary people in the Grove Ward to pick up their own understanding of the issues involved in community development and the necessary skills, in so far as they are relevant and germane to local needs.
3. Make maximum use of opportunity for discussion and consultation with elected members of Hammersmith Borough Council as regards actual policy and issues, especially as they impinge on day to day life in the Grove Ward, and the borough generally.
4. Help obtain and make financially secure the Welsh Presbyterian Chapel as an overall community centre for Grove Ward.
5. Be available as a resource at all times to ordinary people in Grove Ward who turn to the project for help or advice or to participate in what is going on.
The end of gthe First Report 1972-73h quotes from a socio-economist: gIt is the function of project teams to act as catalysts, critics, and innovators.h The Hammersmith Community Development Project was a medium/catalyst to mediate between residents and local government, but the project did not directly involve the activities of the Grove Neighbourhood Council, and it aimed to remain as a rear support.
When the Project reached its fifth year in January 1976, people from the Project, the Council, and the Borough had a meeting at the Town Hall to discuss the future of the Project and the relationship between the local government and the Neighbourhood Council. Among the participants were housing and social service advisor from the local government, a community work advisor, three Borough Councillors from the Grove Ward, six Neighbourhood Councillors, and from the Hammersmith Community Development Project, the Director the Rev. David Mason, and a representative of the City Poverty Committee. Mason passed around a note7 before the meeting, referred to below:
The Hammersmith Community Development Project is a five year programme sponsored by the City Poverty Committee. During the first three years much of the activity has been concerned with the establishment of an elected Grove Neighbourhood Council and providing a resource centre at 26 Overstone Road. Tow previous reports give an account of this experience and there is general agreement in the Ward that the neighbourhood council is now able to make further progress without the support of the Project. We have seen the draft statement on Community Development in the Grove Ward (prepared by the neighbourhood council) and broadly endorse it. This will open up opportunities for the team at Overstone Road to develop its expertise in other parts of the Borough e.g. the White City or other critical areas in North Hammersmith. Widening the horizons of the Project is necessary if it is to make a success of community development. What is required at the next stage is a combined strategy on social policy and, if experience elsewhere is to be taken into account, great care will be needed in devising this strategy. Relevant action by central government is essential if local authorities are to succeed in combating poverty, homelessness, deprivation, racial discrimination, and inequality. These are problems of and for the whole of society but they can be tackled at the local level if boroughs will study patterns of need - inter relating [sic] housing, education, employment, [sic] community facilities, with the health, social services and planning departments. Fortunately we have managed to avoid the worst of these mistakes in Hammersmith (a) because of the cautious approach to community organisation over the last three years in the Grove Ward and (b) because of careful liaison with the Departments of the Borough Council. Involving local people in this process is fundamental and finding ways of making this happen has been a key role of the Project.
Members of the Grove Neighbourhood Council stated that they were an organisation reflecting residentsf opinions at meetings. Therefore they were able to take an active part in the community as an organisation independent from the Hammersmith Community Development Project. Two weeks after this meeting, the Project decided to terminate its activities to support the Council. In March 1976, the Grove Neighbourhood Centre shifted its location to a prefabricated building on Bradmore Park Road. Afterwards, independent activities of the Grove Neighbourhood Centre were developed by local residents.
1 The first two years of the Hammersmith Community Development Project paid the research expenses and salaries by grants from City Parochial Foundation (75%) and Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation (25%).
2 Total number of households was 3,883. 36% of households were lacking or sharing hot water,. 70% of household were renting privately. 17.3% of dwellings had no inside W.C., 25.05 % of dwellings had no bath. 19.09% of dwellings had no hot water. Appendix A & B, gThe First Report 1972-73h
3 This is a housing association established in 1963. It is a non-profit organisation to support housing for low-income groups, mediate public housing disposed of by the government, and improve old houses.
4 One of the eighteen constituencies had many voters therefore two Councillors were elected, but other constituencies had one each. Firstly, forty people filed their candidature but six of them were withdrawn, at the election thirty four candidates contested nineteen seats. Each Councillor had 240 to 344 voters, the voting rate was 5% to 35.6%, and 20% on average. gThe First Report 1972-73,h Appendix F.
5 It is different from the revised Council Constitution in 1995; terms such as gcommunity spirith and glocal communityh were not used in the first Constitution in 1973.
6 The Hammersmith Community Development Project Second Report, 1975, p.18. Several churches of different denominations in the neighbourhood offered space for the activities of the Hammersmith Community Development Project and the Grove Neighbourhood Centre.
7 The draft of the Hammersmith Community Development Project Evaluation and Assessment 1976 (owned by the Grove Neighbourhood Centre), p.5.