On Thursday 21 January 2016 we held the Imagining Benwell Workshop and Exhibition at the Discovery Museum in Newcastle upon Tyne. The title of the workshop was Community Development in Benwell & the West End of Newcastle:From the National Community Development Project to ‘Our Place’ and Beyond and it was attended by 55 people (from academic, policy and practice backgrounds) who were either involved in Imagine/Imagine North East or interested in the research.
The aim of the workshop was to re-examine the achievements and challenges of the Benwell Community Development Project (CDP) of the 1970s, and consider the legacies and lessons for community development and engagement today. Sarah Banks (Principal Investigator of Imagine North East) opened the workshop with an introduction to Imagine North East, followed by an overview of the National Community Development Project of which Benwell CDP was one of twelve CDP projects in the 1970s. Following this, we heard the perspectives of former Benwell CDP workers: Ian Harford (former Director of Benwell CDP) spoke about setting up Benwell CDP and the significance of their research and analysis; Gary Craig (former Assistant Director on the Benwell CDP Action Team) spoke about the significant campaigns, including housing and industry and employment, then David Gray (former lawyer with the Benwell Law Project) spoke about the legal aspects of CDP work.
We then moved on to the post-CDP period and Judith Green (former Benwell CDP researcher) discussed how the CDP imagined the future; Fred Robinson (Durham University) provided an overview of subsequent regeneration initiatives in Benwell and the West End of Newcastle and Alan Townsend spoke about Benwell then and now by comparing census data from 1971 and 2011. These presentations were followed by questions and discussion before Michael McHugh (Tyne and Wear Archives and Museums) introduced the Imagining Benwell Exhibition in the Hub Space at the museum. Participants were invited to look at the exhibition over lunch.
After lunch, there were perspectives on community development and engagement. Andrea Armstrong (Durham University) gave an overview of research findings from residents, community workers and policy makers on ‘Community development and engagement in austerity’. This was followed by a short film extract from ‘Hopes and Fears’ – a film made for Imagine North East by young people involved in the Patchwork Youth project in Benwell. We then heard critical perspectives from local community organisations including Christine Irklis (Riverside Community Health Project), Shamshad Iqbal (Angelou Centre) and Andrew White (SkillsBridge) and Ruth Taylor (Pendower Good Neighbour Project) who spoke about Our Place.
Participants then had the choice of three roundtable discussions: Communities in Control? (faciliated by Andrea Armstrong); Forty years of urban policy – what can we learn? (facilitated by Fred Robinson and Patrick Harman) or The role of research in promoting and supporting communit development in urban neighbourhoods (faciliated by Sarah Banks and Kate Pahl).
Gathering back in the main room, the three groups fed back their key messages before we moved onto the final plenary of the day – Mae Shaw (Edinburgh University) spoke about Community development in austerity Britain, looking back, looking forward.
It was a thoroughly enjoyable event and here are some photos taken on the day.
Fred Robinson, Durham University
Mae Shaw, Edinburgh University
Ruth Taylor, Pendower Good Neighbour Project
Andrew White, SkillsBridge
Shamshad Iqbal, Angelou Centre
Christine Irklis, Riverside Community Health Project
David Gray, former lawyer with Benwell Law Project
Gary Craig (Durham University) – former Assistant Director (Action team) Benwell CDP
Ian Harford, former Director Benwell CDP
Sarah Banks, Durham University
Michael McHugh (TWAM) and Sarah Banks (Durham University)
Mae Shaw, Edinburgh University