ReSpacing Conference at The Hive
Need space to start a business? Teach dance? Exhibit art? Hold meetings? Host a cabaret? … Our space is your space! #HiveDalston
— Hive Dalston (@hivedalston) March 6, 2016
I arrived half an hour later than I would have wished as I caught two buses from Waterloo, rather than one, but at least arrived, and alighted more or less at the correct bus stop on Kingsland Road in Dalston.
The Hive is an office block just over the canal.
I recognised where I was as the social enterprise café established by Russell Brand is nearby.
Initial impressions, a legalised squat, though they would probably object to my description.
Up a flight of stairs, then a vast open space, but arranged into smaller areas, a kitchen cum café in one corner, a little rooftop garden outside. There were upper floors, these I did not explore.
Everything I saw, the chairs the tables, the stage, all had been salvaged and put to use.
Although half an hour late, an hour later than start time, I was still one of the first.
Did I understand Skipping Breakfast? Yes, food from skips.
We are told to recycle. Do we? No.
We waste food, we waste materials, we waste space.
Derelict building are everywhere. The Hive was a derelict building. In Aldershot, a dead shopping centre, with TechStart occupying one large unit, but begging to be used.
The Hive approached a developer, and with reservations, he agreed to let them use. A very short lease, the volunteers provided everything, all of which was salvaged.
The developer Michael has been completely won over, he is now a big cheer leader for ReSpace, putting derelict buildings to use for the community.
What is ReSpace?
ReSpace is a planning designation that any local council or planning authority can use.
Any property that is empty for six months can be designated ReSpace. It is then open to local communities to use, pay a peppercorn rent, the developer pays no businesses rates.
There is now a petition calling for ReSpace to be written into planning law. Everyone is urged to please sign.
We are losing community space. We are losing green space, pubs, libraries.
Who runs these reclaimed spaces?
How de we found them?
We don’t, they appear.
Nomadic Community Gardens: Two people toiling away at derelict land, bringing back into use. They did not ask for volunteers, the community joined in.
This is what happened at The Hive.
It is not only materials and spaces we need to recycle, we also need to recycle people. Idle hands, idle minds, that can be put to use on behalf of the community.
The Hive is a not for profit. The space is for use by not for profit, even for profit, they have helped set up several business, but they have to contribute to the common good. In other words they have to contribute to the collaborative commons.
The next step, having demonstrated the feasibility of The Hive, not forgetting an enlightened developer who wishes to contribute to the local community and without who The Hive would not be possible, is to establish a network of Hives, Holistic Urban Regeneration in action.
The question is how do we regenerate them? Top down does not work. It has to be bottom up, small businesses, social enterprises, open coops, collaborative commons, sharing economy.
Aldershot is one such dismal town. Decades of bad planning decisions, a dysfunctional council with no understanding of what constitutes good town centre planning, no understanding of how local economies function, the need to recycle money within the local economy. The streets are deserted, the shops boarded up, homeless in the shop doorways, the few who are on the street, no money to spend.
In the midst of this deprivation lies a derelict shopping centre. It could be the set for a post-apocalypse movie. There is even the occasional zombie walking through, saving on the need for extras.
The question is, what to do with it? It has been derelict for years. It is likely to remain derelict for the foreseeable future.
The one ray of hope, TechStart opened two years ago. Run by volunteers, they recycle old computers, run a net café, carry out repairs, provide training.
Last Saturday, TechStart closed, their funding had been pulled. The good news is, an outbreak of commons sense, funding for four months. But they have to become self-sufficient.
The empty shopping centre, instead of being seen as a liability, should be seen as an opportunity to showcase that alternatives are possible, that we do not have to be drawn into the addiction of consumerism.
Look what could be possible:
- social enterprise café
- repair shop
- tool swap
- credit union
All it requires is vision.
Replicate across the country, make a difference.
What uses can that derelict building in your community be put to?
Does the local council maintain a list of derelict buildings, is it made public, are they designating as ReSpace?
For the developer, nothing worse than a derelict building, it soon falls into disrepair, becomes vandalised. Added to which the cost of securing the building. Occupation, put to community use, is better than sitting empty.
At the very least there has to be an exploration of what the The Hive in Dalston are doing. Hive started with just £250.
As a showcase building, The Hive in Dalston has demonstrated the feasibility of such a model and in only nine months has seen over 4000 people, held 17 art exhibitions, numerous performance, environmental, political and cultural events and helped about 50 local charities. Has enabled people to start businesses and even had a skate park. This has all been achieved using a system that is self-sustaining and utilises volunteers, donations, up-cycling, recycling and sharing.
Local councils are almost an irrelevance. If they wish to work with the local community fine, if not bypass and work directly with a property developer.
The Hive are fortunate in not only having an enlightened local council, but also an enlightened property developer, who wishes to work with the local community, put something back into the local community.
Where else other than The Hive would you find activists praising a property developer, and vice a versa the property developer heaping praise on the activists?
Discussion of the London Mayoral Hustings to be held at The Hive the following day. Questions people wished to put. What are they going to do to resolve growing homelessness, we cannot sweep under the carpet or push into neighbouring boroughs. Air pollution, expansion of Heathrow and Gatwick. Encouragement of growing food locally cf Dig for Victory during WWII.
A handful of groups were invited to pitch their ideas to a panel of experts. The ideas in themselves not that interesting. What was of more interest, was the advice given and the constructive criticism that followed. One important piece of advice, have a property lawyer with you to help negotiate and draw up a contract.
The Hive held their ReSpacing Conference on Wednesday 20 April 2016. A second day will be for London Mayoral Hustings.
The Hive is reclaimed space.
The Hive is community space.
The Hive is Holistic Urban Regeneration.
Originally published at keithpp.wordpress.com on April 21, 2016.
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