Transforming an underused town square into a pavilion pf possibilities.
The project aims to engage local residents in the future developments of Barking Town Centre and thus, increase their sense of ownership of the public realm.
Local Task Force
The pilot was realised by engaging local residents and community groups, the Regeneration and Leisure Departments of the Municipality of Barking & Dagenham, and the artist Kiran Chahal of Up! Barking (community organisation).
Through the support of the municipality during a six-week period, a local artist delivered and ran a pop-up space to be used for community activities.
Although at the beginning political support was quite limited, the project became so popular that it gained a lot of support.
One of the drawbacks was that both, project publicity and press materials, could have been better prepared and more widely disseminated to the whole range of community organisations present in the borough.
The pop-up space used salvaged and recycled materials from construction sites and was themed to reflect the area's fishing heritage. The structure was designed to encourage playfulness although it was aimed at all age groups from the very young to the very old.
Financial resources were raised through a mixture of grant, contributions from companies and diversion of some resources from the Leisure Department (re-providing resource in the Town Square). Schools and community groups contributed to the distribution of publicity.
Strokes of Luck
A great deal of the success of the Pallet Pavilion came from the willingness of a wide range of community groups to engage with. In addition, the goodwill of private companies, both in terms of finance and materials, was also a bonus.
The Pallet Pavilion made a greater use of all the town square area all year round and was really appreciated by parents as it offered a low-cost way of entertaining their children safely during the long school holidays. It raised awareness of how the town centre "works", enhanced the sense of space ownership and increased the number of people attending the activities, with many making return visits.
As it was highlighted by a full evaluation report, it takes time for projects to 'warm up'. In this regard, the engagement of residents in the regeneration of the Barking Town Square was most effectively towards the end of the project period.
Key lesson learned - Paula explains
"Local people have lots of creative ideas for their local community and providing events where they can come together, have fun and have the opportunity to share these ideas and be listened to is really important for local authorities."
Paula Vandergert, UEL