Barkingside 21 announces that Redbridge Council is consulting on a new Leisure & Culture Strategy 2015-19. In the face of £70 million cuts I left this comment today:
There are so many promising initiatives to bridge the gaps between generations and communities, to help mental health, alleviate loneliness, prevent radicalisation and antisocial behaviour by giving young men kudos and rites of passage, and even address the crisis of identity which can leave older adults (particularly working class men) feeling left behind by society. Not to mention improve skills and health.
One avenue is the public workshop (aka hackspace or makespace). These are now sufficiently mainstream that they could be a main policy – especially if conceived as reducing antisocial behaviour by giving boys something very challenging to do, addressing social isolation (it needs to be staffed, and older men are famously isolated eg Men With Sheds which now has a UK branch), connecting generations which barely encounter each other if left to themselves, reducing landfill, building skills and imagination, and saving money. I think it’s fresh, inspiring and could be led with. But it does need at least two enthusiasts who know what they’re doing to take it forward. Two, because they need to sustain and encourage each other. I think that contacts at UCL or Goldsmiths may be able to identify a mentor. For examples of active workshops see London Hackspace and The Institute of Making. Stuff gets made and mended at these places.
Mark Miodownik’s rationale for public workshops is from 22.30 onwards on this radio broadcast – he would like to see libraries turned into public workshops – even if we don’t think that, the podcast is worth a listen.
A here’s a brief history of public workshops, including links.
Gardens link wildlife, fitness, mental health and pleasant neighbourhoods. Green corridors through the back gardens between the green spaces might be a good place to start. Growing food might be another – see The All London Green Grid.
Relatedly Good Gym is a volunteering-plus-fitness scheme where a pack of keep-fitters meet up and run together to an older person’s house to do some heavy work for them eg gardening – they’re not in Redbridge yet so there’s a gap to either invite them in or set up something similar.
On involving older women (we already thought about men above) – the so-called ‘granny cloud‘ (apologies) – Sugata Mitra is not exactly my cup of tea (he seems to marginalise teachers), but the idea of signing up older women on the internet to mentor kids in places in India which struggle to recruit good teachers sounds very Redbridge to me.
Image source: Contains Ordnance Survey data © Crown copyright and database right [CC BY-SA 3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0)], via Wikimedia Commons. http://upload.wikimedia.org/wikipedia/commons/a/a2/Redbridge_London_UK_blank_ward_map.svg