When I first moved to Tottenham, I was actually a runner, I was preparing a 10k and that's when I first discovered Lordship Rec - 11 years ago. I remember experiencing some stunning sunsets. On the other hand, one of my friends who grew up next to the park, remembers watching some more unsavoury events unfolding. Everybody has a story and connection to Tottenham's parks so it was with great excitement that I spoke with Dave about the transformation that the Friends of Lordship Rec managed to achieve over the last twenty years.
their website: https://lordshiprec.org.uk/
their Facebook: https://www.facebook.com/groups/307036912739/
Lordship Hub Instagram: https://www.instagram.com/lordshiphub_n17/
their Youtube: https://www.youtube.com/@lordshiprec
Episode on Countryfile about Lordship Rec (also featuring Dave and many other local legends): https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=Yjvb9MxxDrw&t=258s
pod instagram: https://www.instagram.com/anybodyeverybodytottenham/
pod website : https://www.anybodyeverybodytottenham.com/
pod twitter: https://twitter.com/AnybodyBody
Hi I'm Jamila and anybody everybody Tottenham is a bimonthly podcast introducing the good people of Tottenham to you. Hello my friends. It looks like autumn is upon us. I hope everyone is doing well. So I know I said I like community activism but genuinely I thought we were just gonna talk about green space. By you know how it is in Tottenham. We are talking about community activism as well. So I hope you enjoy today's episode. Today on the pod I've got Dave Morris with me he is one of the founding members of the Friends of Lordship Rec, thank you very much for joining me today.
Thank you looking forward to it.
So Dave, I don't know anything about you. So what is your connection to Tottenham? How long have you been here?
So I moved to Tottenham in about 1981. And I was involved in the 1980s in the Tottenham claimants union, which was a community activist group kind of fighting for the rights of unemployed and unwaged people. (Okay.) And long story short, by about 2001. I was involved with - in fact I was the secretary of the Residents Association on tower gardens estate in the centre of Tottenham (?) next to Lordship Rec and a few of us, actually, the very first group, Park group I was involved with was the Friends of Downhills Park. We used to go to meetings there. And a lot of people attended those meetings and then a few of us said, why don't we got a group for Lordship Rec, it desperately needs it. So we called a meeting at the Broadwater Farm Community Center. 50 people turned up. And, you know, we launched the Friends of lordship Rec, and that's where it all began really.
Okay, let's circle a little bit back. So 1981, what was Tottenham like?
Well, that's a big question. My parents come from the area, I always felt very much at home here. Obviously, in the 1980s, we had, there was quite a lot of big grassroots movements and groups. It was the time of Thatcherism in government, unemployment was very high. And a lot of today's problems were the same, then, of course, and but one thing that definitely inspired me greatly was the anti poll tax movement, where the government wanted to bring in a tax on all adult individuals in the country. And there was a mass movement in defiance of the government and 14 million people refuse to pay the poll tax, despite 2000 people being jailed for non payments across the UK, they could not enforce it, the grassroots movement and organizing and defiance was just too strong. So that's one of the reasons that I felt that, you know, we have a lot of power as the community if we organize ourselves, if we organize ourselves, you know, in every neighborhood, on every estates around every facility that we love, such as parks, that's my kind of guiding motivation to sort of see if we can, you know, bring together the community to stand up for our interests and have a long term vision as well about that. We're the important people, you know, who should have the dominant say about our own lives and our own neighborhoods.
I wonder as well like with the pandemic, maybe this looking back at your local area and interest in what is around you. So
when we started the tower gardens residence network, as it then was in 1998, you know, there was a lot of new residents associations forming and in fact, we formed the Federation of residents association, with about eventually about 150 160 different residents associations across the borough and this was the first I think borough wide grassroots movement all linking groups together and supporting each other for a very long time. And actually, once I got involved with the Friends of Lordship Rec, I got so enthusiastic about what we were doing that that's really kind of taken over as my main thing because It's so exciting and empowering, when ordinary people come together to really try and make a difference about their own everyday lives.
I mean, it's amazing how much you have achieved over the last 20 years. And you managed it because you didn't have that much planning, but you planned and you have those different levels and the coordination, because the friends you founded in 2001, ever since then you meet monthly. And when I then also saw the, what is it called - the user forum that they met weekly to kind of coordinate between the different people.
well, so the friends once we started, we thought we meet every month, all the meetings are open, we publicize to everybody and anybody. And obviously, you get a core of people who are really committed, one of the things we did quite early on was realize that we needed to work with a wide range of other user groups. There weren't many when we started, there was the football teams on in the sports field, next to the Broadwater Community Center, and there was a parent and toddler group based in a sort of semi derelict building in the middle of the park. And of course, there were neighboring residents associations, certainly my one the tower gardens residence network, and also Broadwater Farm Residents Association. So we tried to get everybody to kind of work together, but also the council, because the park that basically got into serious decline over the previous 20 years, it was really the jewel in the crown. You know, previously with a lot of staffing and facilities and immaculately kept fondly remembered, but it was in a shocking state when we started the group. That's why we started the group, there was no flower beds, the buildings were semi derelict, the park was hardly used as a lot of anti social behavior, and, and so on. So we needed to get everybody together to address the situation. And we had meetings with the council that kind of almost given up apart from collecting the litter and mowing the grass, really, they'd kind of given up with the park. So we started separate meetings, as well as the friends which was open to all the individuals who cared about the park, we had meetings with the council and other user groups. And very quickly, we began to identify the improvements that we wanted to see, and started to sort of draw up proposals and refine them and consult people and engage other people and so on. To cut a long story short, you know, we put in a bid to the lottery for 4 million pounds, which the council promised to back with its own capital funding. And I'm glad to say after a lot of effort, it was successful. I mean, by that time, we were organizing annual festivals, which were getting bigger and bigger. And in fact, once the money had been secured and spent, and I'll explain what it was spent on, we had a kind of celebration festival with 8000 people, you know, and a whole range of new groups were beginning to develop. And there was a feeling of optimism, which is really important for the community. You know, when you're trying to mobilize communities, people want to know, there's an end product,
how quickly did this happen? Because so you started 2001? When did you put in that bid?
So I think the bid was, was kind of drawn up in 2007 2008. And then once the money had been secured, and we had to actually also, I think, what was it 400 We got 400,000 pounds from a kind of what was it like a polling voting effort where we could mobilize 1000s of people to vote for our projects. And that convinced you know, another funding stream, which was the environment agency and also the Mayor of London, to give extra money. So there was a lot of kind of mobilization towards we've got to rescue our park, we need the resources we need everybody working together. At the core of it all was this community empowerment that the community should be embedded in the decision making in the management of different parts of the park and the new buildings that indeed got built. That's what happened. We got a new river channel, we improved all the paths. We built a brand new building by the lake in the middle of the park, which after some Argy bargy behind the scenes we managed to make sure was run by the community for the community. Which is the hub, Lordship hub. And that's run as a cooperative, which was kind of set up by the friends, but has developed as an independent body. Also, there's a bike workshop at the front entrance, run by the rockstone Foundation. All in all, what we've done is we've, we've made the community central to the management and indeed the maintenance in many aspects of the park. So it's really been a journey. And shows, I mean, obviously, as you go along, you attract many new people along the way who've got skills and they've got passion, or they've got time to add to the efforts. There's more and more events, small groups. More people use the park, we put in gate counters that measured how many people came in the park and it tripled between 2010 and 2012. When the works were completed 2013 And now almost a million people a year come into the park is Tottenham largest park, it needs to be a great place that attracts a lot of people. And that's what's happened. But by this collective efforts and partnership working with the council, which isn't easy. The council doesn't really - the council is a hierarchy. They like to be in control. But I have to say they've embraced in Lordship Rec they've embraced the community empowerment. And we've had to learn to work with the council and understand their issues. They're chronically understaffed and underresourced because of government cuts over the last 15 years. So all round has been a real effort experience, which I think is appreciated by those that come into the park.
Yeah, I think it's amazing because also it's always one of our top tips. Everyone always talks about the green spaces and Lordship Rec in particular. And I think your strength is that it's such a variety of people using the park for so many different things. Just on a side note. What I'm interested in is I live right next to Downhills Park, you said you were inspired by Downhills Park friends, because Downhills Park got renewed, isn't it? So did that happen before Lordship Rec or?
Well, I mean Downhills Park has definitely been around since the friends were formed, I think in about 1998 certainly improved, I don't think it's been as dramatic as lordship rec because Lordship Rec was in such a state it's such a huge park. And it needed a real massive injection of money and effort to transform it. Whereas I think downhills they've made gradual improvements, over the years. But that was the first friends group in the east of the borough, there were some friends groups in the west of the borough, for example, Queenswood I think that's been going over 30 years, probably much longer. There's now actually 65 Friends group. So almost every substantial space, green space in the borough now has a dedicated group of people that want to protect and improve and animates and promotes their local space.
And because you love a bit of madness, you also decided to coordinate all the friends groups in England or the UK or?
UK. So well. It kind of naturally flowed that once you start discovering there's lots of groups in Haringey, we quickly and I wasn't involved with this other people organized the first Haringey friends of parks forum meeting. And since then it's been every two months for over 20 years, linking together all the groups which have grown from, you know, maybe 10 or 15, at the beginning to now 65 groups. And then we discovered, of course, that there's groups all over London, and me and my big mouth have ended up Chair of the London network, which has got about 930 groups. And inevitably, we bumped into people from around the country. And we said we really must have a national movement because you know, the cuts that happened in the 80s and 90s. We could see them coming back again in the last 10 years. And we thought we must have a national voice of park users that can really, you know, speak up and demand the resources that our green spaces need. And to be honest, it's incredible how little resources there are, is something like 1 billion pounds a year to run most of the countries 27,000 urban green spaces managed by local councils mainly. And really, it's gone down from, you know, 15/20/30 years ago. And we think it needs about three or 4 billion. But if you think about the hundreds of billions that are wasted on massive infrastructural projects, I mean, hs2 is an example. There's clearly a lot of resources in our society, but they need to be directed to serve community's needs. And firstly, the whole population of the country, use our green spaces, you know, whether it's, you know, because they've got children, or they're, they're cycling through them as they're attractive routes rather than congested main roads, you know, they use them for all kinds of reasons and activities and interests. And some people on a, you know, literally on a daily basis, millions of people every day,
and I think especially in Tottenham, and we've seen that during the pandemic is where a lot of people live in flats and don't have themselves a garden and parks play such an important role. And another thing that I'm recently very interested in is third spaces. Where can people meet without having to pay money, isn't it to just be with a group of friends and parks is one of the places
Yes, and you have to invest to make these green spaces attractive and safe. And that, you know, to enable a wide range of activities, you have to have multi use games areas, you have to have cafes with toilets and other features like in Lordship Rec, we have a cycle track in fact we have two cycle tracks. One is a BMX track. Another is a model traffic area, which believe it or not, was the first in the world opened by the Minister of Transport no less in 1938.
I watched the video,
you know, so green spaces, they have a history, they have a purpose, but they need to be invested in local public services. And we've seen our public services run down systematically by the government, who always seem to be able to find billions of pounds when it suits them. For for other things,
what are you most proud of what you have achieved over the last 20 years?
Well, I'd say that community empowerment is is not a tick box exercise. It's something that really needs patient encouragement and building over a long period of time. A lot of diplomacy, a lot of communication, a lot of responsibility. And in fact, it's not something that we invented. So we learned from not just from my Residents Association on tower Gardens, which had managed to get a million pounds for traffic calming measures, good quality traffic calming measures throughout the estate, but also from the long history of Broadwater Farm where residents, and in particular youth had organized themselves in the 70s and 80s and 90s, to transform that estate from an estate that had very few facilities to one that's you know, that they was able to succeed and get a lot of what they campaigned for, and they've got embedded into in the decision making in that process. So we stand on the shoulders of giants, and hopefully, people in generations to come can appreciate the work that's gone in before them, not just friends groups, but residents associations and campaigning organizations. I remember with the poll tax, funnily enough, we talked about the poll tax earlier - in 1990 when it was brought in, it wasn't called the poll tax. And a lot of people said, poll tax isn't that a poll tax? Didn't we defeat that in 1381 600 years previously? You know, there was a feeling of, hey, we can beat this. It took them 600 years to introduce it again. So I think we can learn from history, especially from our successes, we must celebrate our successes and learn from them.
Do you think you could have you ever envisaged what Lordship Rec has become 20 years ago? Or has it become much more than you even would have dreamt of?
That's a good point. I mean, you don't really know what you can achieve. You want to set your aspirations high. And because if you don't go for it, you'll never get it. But of course, it's a long and hard battle, you know along the way. I mean, a good example is the building in the middle of the park, the lordship hub. Which is a a purpose built, large community center with a full time cafe, public toilets and meeting rooms and so on (accessible as well!) And accessible. And it's a passive house building, which means it's carbon neutral, it's a building for the future. You know, when it was built, it was supposed to be taken over by a third party, some other organization, nothing specific, but they were trying to find the council, were trying to find an organization that would work with all the groups, the friends groups and the others in the park. And they couldn't find anyone to take it on. And then they were offering it to a commercial operator. And we said, no way, we can't have a commercial operator running our building in the middle of the park. And he didn't really want to work with the friends group, I will give you 12 hours a week on something, access. So we said, Okay, look- we're running it ourselves. And if we'd known how much work that would entail, and still entails, would we have taken that on, you know, you can never really know what the future brings exactly. But the important thing is, first of all, it's extremely empowering to run that building, decide who can use it - all the groups in the park can use it for free, if they're based in the park. You know, it's a real community building in every sense, as we say, building an epicenter is helping to build the community. But the key thing is to attract new people to get involved, because there's only so much you can do with a small group of people. But you need to create something that is magnetic that it can attract people with skills and experience and enthusiasm.
Can I ask about Park run? Because you don't really mention it on your website? What's going on there? Is that a good thing for you?
Fantastic thing yes. The only reason we haven't mentioned - we did mention it when it was launched a year ago. And we were actually in discussion with them for a year before they launched, supporting them and urging the council to support it. So it's, a weekly, Saturday morning run open to everybody with any kind of ability or skill to run around the park for five kilometres. And in fact, they've started run every Sunday as well now - for children. So they've got two park runs a week, and it's forever once they start and they carry on forever. And there's a lot of volunteers involved. And I think that the amount of volunteering in Lordship Rec is really inspiring because the hub has 40 or 50 volunteers, even though it's got paid staff as well. It's reliant on volunteers. So it's parkrun the friends group, the sports, the Broadwater Farm sports teams, youth teams that are based in the sports field, a lot of the parents are involved in, you know, transporting the teams to away matches or being referees or whatever. So, when you look at Lordship Rec, to me, I don't see the greenery as much as I see the people. It's like, we've created a bit of an alternative village in the middle of Tottenham, with a massive range of great people, you know, beavering away to make it to make it happen. Yeah.
And so what are still / is there still something that you want to achieve or that you feel that's the next step what we should do?
Well, personally, I think it's today Lordship Rec tomorrow the world. So what I'd like to see is the whole world, people all over the world, sort of, you know, step up to the plate, and take responsibility for their communities demand the resources that they need, you know, the resources of the world should be channeled towards public services and satisfying people's real needs. So hopefully, what we've done in lordship rec contributes in a small way, to showing what can be achieved when communities mobilize and take responsibility. So actually, we got a grant friends of lordship rec from the lottery to promote community empowerment in green spaces across the UK. And as a result of that, you know, Lordship Rec and many other great examples around the country, we were able to publicize, encourage others to do similar. And I think also within Tottenham, there's a lot of groups that have kind of campaigns in their neighborhood, either against some top down, horrible scheme that was going to demolish their area or positively for what they wanted. And I think that we built a network where groups could support each other. So for example, Ward's corner in seven sisters, they've not only spent 15 years campaigning against the demolition of that amazing market, and the surrounding buildings, but they're also got a community plan for running the whole site themselves, which is on the verge of succeeding, if they can get the lease and support for London and the Council, which was opposed to what they were doing, because they had a secret plan with a corporate developer that was going to demolish and rebuild luxury flats on the site, that the council has now transferred their support to the community plan. So it shows and you've got similar campaigns and efforts around Tottenham, maybe not on such a big scale. But hopefully, you know, can send waves when you have a success story can send waves that cheers everybody up and shows what can be done spreads.
I mean, I was thinking what I still want to see when Lordship Rec was opened, it had 10,000 visitors when it was reopened 8000 I think you need to get over 10,000 no?
oh you mean in terms of that kind of opening ceremony? Yeah, sorry. Yeah. But you know what, organizing a big festival or community festival - it's exhausting. It's absolutely exhausting. Terrifying. What we decided after our kind of the relaunch of the park was, let's just encourage people to organize a lot of different events. So this - and that's worked, you know, so we've had the, you know, kind of youth fests focusing on music and sport. We've had the skating in the shell theater, skateboard area, we've had cloud Appreciation Day, we've been designated the world's first cloud appreciation Park, because of the great views in Lordship Rec, but also the person who gave clouds, their Latin names, who first invented the Latin name for clouds, which are now used all over the world, lived in Bruce Grove. And he was born 250 years ago, this year. So what else we had, we've had loads of different, amazing different activities to do ( steel Pan) the steel pan, the steel band annual events. I'm struggling to remember all the events, we
you always have the vegetables and fruits no?
sorry, the flower, that's our big thing, the annual Tottenham flower and produce show
every month. And that's the kind of stalls and activities for kids. I mean, you know, what we want to see is not, you know, one group of people organizing everything, but lots and lots of different groups organizing Park run and fitness things and bike rides and walking groups, and, you know, youth festivals, whatever.
Do you have some top tips for Tottenham - things that people should explore?
Well, I think we should have high aspirations, and not take no for an answer. As local people, we should expect the best facilities, great community, you know, interaction and solidarity. Empowerment. Now, it's obviously a journey from where we are now to get to that, but it's important to have that as our long term goal. I would say that's my kind of top tip, you know, it is our world. And it's, it seems to be run by other people. You know, powerful, rich and powerful people seem to be, you know, have control of the resources and the decision making but you know, we are the people, so, we need to, you know, think of what kind of lives what kind of community what kind of services, what kind of world do we want, and that's what we should go for. But obviously, you have to take steps towards that. But the way that we do things is is as important as our end, goal.
What community groups have you got in lordship rec where people could get involved with as a starting point?
Obviously there's the park runs every week. There's the Friends of Lordship Rec, we've got 1400 members only most, we wish they would come to our meetings every month, but they're on our email list. We got 1700 on our Facebook page, which is a fairly lively page. There's the rock stone cycling hub at the front of the park, where people can learn skills and fix bikes and have their own bikes fixed, the sports teams, youth sports teams, have this there's so many groups, there's walking groups, you know, my mind's gone blank,
what's with litter picking and stuff I was trying to gonna send my boyfriend to go litter picking Do you still do this or?
So we've got lots - I kind of forgot to mention what we do as friends of Lordship Rec. So we manage the woodlands at the southern end of the park. And we have regular sessions to you know, woodchip the path and keep the sight lines open and so on. We have a litter picking group that is out in the park different parts of the park every couple of weeks, which helps the council out with their litter picking teams. We manage the orchards, which is the field next to Broadwater Farm on the east side of the park. It's all fruit trees. And we've planted most of them ourselves. And we've involved families. So that's another way people can get involved. There's a performing arts collective that organizes events at the shell theater that we support. Oh yeah, we also get down and dirty in the river channel, clearing out the the vegetation that grows in the middle of the channel and slows the water down. So we're trying to improve the flow and therefore the quality of the water. Every month, people get their waders on and get into the muddy channel and drag stuff out. So yeah, there's lots of ways in which people can get involved.
Okay, so I shall link in your website, your YouTube channels, you say Facebook, okay, I'll have have a look at your Facebook. Have you got an Instagram? No.
Possibly but we don't use it very much Facebook is the key. (Okay. ) Website is like where you know, the basic information is and the Facebook is the most lively kind of live. media that we have
Lordship Hub has quite an active Instagram page as well. Yes.
Yeah. Yes. Okay.
Thank you very much. We managed to do it in record time. Well done. You know your stuff.
Thank you and good luck to everybody.
Okay, bye. Have a nice afternoon. Bye. So I hope you enjoyed that in the shownotes I will just link in a bunch of socials from Instagram youtube the website, etc. So I hope you felt inspired and getting a little bit involved with the parks. Alright, have a lovely week. I hope you enjoyed today's episode, learned something new. And let that Tottenham love grow. Take care. And until next time, byyyye
Transcribed by https://otter.ai