Accessibility links

I recently took part in the London Triathlon with a friend of mine. This fired off a couple of thoughts about communities and community life.

I recently took part in the London Triathlon with a friend of mine. This fired off a couple of thoughts about communities and community life.

Coincidentally the triathlon was based in the Excel conference centre in East London, just opposite Silvertown. I say coincidentally, because I had, in a previous job, undertaken a review of a housing development in Silvertown.

This was the kind of review which doesn’t get done enough. I looked at how much the housing development had met its original objectives, now that it had been built for over a decade.

Part of the idea behind the development was that placing social housing next to private housing would encourage the social housing tenants to make connections with their wealthier neighbours and, thereby, improve their lot.

What I found was that the residents of the private housing were, overwhelmingly, DINKYS (Double-Income families with No Kids Yet) who liked the convenience which the DLR line offered them and the new build houses. They did not use the local shops, the local schools or the local community centre. Their social networks took them much further afield. They had friends all over London, they worked some distance away and they did not intend to live in the area for very long.

This meant that very few relationships were formed between the social housing tenants and those who lived in private housing. It reminded me of a book about the Reformation which showed how Catholics and Protestants had a completely different way of thinking about the cities they lived in.

Perhaps the original plans were based on a nostalgic idea of community where people would automatically know their neighbours and be in and out of each other’s houses the whole time.

As I was huffing and puffing my way along the triathlon I started thinking about a new initiative called the Good Gym.

As I understand it, people who sign up to the Good Gym are linked with an isolated person who lives in their area (it’s based in Tower Hamlets at the minute, quite near Silvertown actually).

Then, when they go for a jog, they stop off at this person’s house, for a quick drink and chat. This has the dual advantage of encouraging exercise (I know I trained a lot more for the triathlon because I trained with a friend – the peer pressure alone kept me exercising) and widening the social networks of people who are isolated.

Perhaps this is the kind of low cost initiative which was needed for the Silvertown housing development to achieve its objectives.

Finally, as a treat for getting to the end of this blog post here is a video of me finishing the triathlon, holding hands with the friend I trained with!


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