Building community and creativity in Clapham Park during Covid-19

29 April 2021

Summary:Our transformational development project at Clapham Park, Lambeth, is building creativity for residents, as well as new homes.

At MTVH, we are committed to ensuring that all our regeneration projects meet the needs and aspirations of our residents. Our major regeneration scheme at Clapham Park is a great example of a successful transformation project that is creating authentic and vibrant spaces where people can not only live and work, but to also foster genuine connection. Keeping this work going during Covid-19 has been incredibly important to us and our residents.

In the last couple of years, there has been major progress with the transformation of the Clapham Park estate. So far, MTVH has built or refurbished over 1,500 homes, 3 shops and opened the Clapham Park Cube community centre. The Cube was completed in 2019, and, with the input of residents, was designed to be a fully accessible and inclusive space for the community. The Cube provides an enclosed garden, commercial kitchen, double height sports hall, as well as training and meeting rooms. The Cube is at the centre of the community, allowing residents to attend and arrange a wide range of activities and events, many of which are funded by MTVH, free for the community to enjoy.

Unfortunately, due to Covid-19, many of the planned activities have either had to be cancelled or put on hold over the last year. Despite this challenge, MTVH has been working in partnership with Counterpoint Arts, a leading national organisation in the field of arts, migration and cultural change, to give local residents the chance to access activities virtually. Through this partnership, residents have had the opportunity to participate in various virtual art programmes, including a weekly photo-embroidery initiative.

Through the photo-embroidery project, Clapham Park estate residents, as well as people in the neighbouring area, are offered the opportunity to safely explore creative and expressive possibilities. Participants are provided with a free art kit with all the necessary supplies.

The project has had a huge social impact, enabling local residents to engage and develop creative skills through embroidering photos of meaningful Clapham Park buildings. Photo-embroidering has developed into a unique way of making people of all ages feel a sense of connection to something much greater than their own four walls. In addition, the project has helped tackle issues such as depression, loneliness and isolation which have risen significantly since lockdown restrictions were first introduced.

Local resident, Therese Mullen, said:The pandemic brought individual challenges to each household and some bore the brunt of Covid more than others. To some families our embroidery project was there to bring light relief to their day. To others experiencing loneliness it helped to keep them connected and our phone calls with the residents were also a chance for us to check in on how they were coping. When some of our participants became ill with Covid, our embroidery project gave us reason to check in on them and see if there was anything else they needed.”

“Talking some of the older residents through zoom, highlighted the bravery of many to take on something new in order to stay connected to the surrounding community. Having lived in this neighbourhood for 10 years, I grew more connected to it in lockdown, because I was proud of the people who I was engaging with via this project. Staying connected to others via craft helped to root me to my community and helped grasp hold of that all-important sense of togetherness. Hearing stories on the phone and having a chance to talk to our community over lockdown made me proud of our project. It will be nice to exhibit together at some point and reflect on what we have all been through.”

The completed collection of hand embroidered photographs of all the unique buildings will be displayed in an exhibition across the Clapham Park estate in summer 2021.

Counterpoint Arts’ Creative Producer, Marcia Chandra, said: “Creative groups and community art programmes are often undervalued in terms of what they contribute locally within neighbourhoods. But often it is these groups that really help to build community, to connect neighbours, enhance skills and create the strong sense of place that is so vital in times of crisis. MTVH has always been supportive of Counterpoints Arts’ participatory arts approach as essential to community resilience, and we’re really grateful for their continued support of the Clapham Park Creative project since the start of the pandemic. It’s meant that people have been able to connect with each other by doing things that help to take them out of the context of isolation and stress, and there is also a sense of pride in sharing their stories and artworks with the wider community when we open up again.”

MTVH’s Head of Regeneration, Lisa Johnston, said: At the heart of our regeneration projects like Clapham Park is our commitment to ensuring that we meet the needs ​​and aspirations of our residents, both existing and new. With the pandemic disrupting the normal opportunities for people to socialise and create together, it is important that we have been able to provide access to activities that maintain community connectivity. Virtual creative activities like the photo-embroidery project have allowed residents to do just that, as well as to develop a sense of belonging during what has been a very lonely time for many.”

With plans to build over 2,500 new homes, further new shops, a large central park and further community facilities by 2035, we are determined to continue in delivering lasting outcomes that benefit Clapham Park residents socially, environmentally and economically whilst maintaining and celebrating the deep-rooted characteristics of the Clapham Park community.