I heard a story once which told of an old, dreary, unloved block of flats, part lived in, part empty and cold. It stayed like this for some years only getting worse as the residents stopped seeing the rubbish in the hallways and the mucky walls and stopped complaining to the management committee.
They had accepted it. Crime started to rise and the flats got to be known as being unsafe. Local people started to find new routes into the town so that they didn’t have to walk past it after dark.
The flats and the people living in them were about to be forgotten.
There was one resident, however, that hadn’t lost hope and still loved her home. She had put up with the mess for too long and one Monday, on her own, she walked all of the stairways and landings picking up the litter. By Tuesday morning litter was all over the hallways again, she just cleared it away and this time brought her hoover out too and cleared up the muck and dust and grime as much as possible. Wednesday she walked the hallways again and some new litter had turned up, but not as much. She cleared it away. And this time, starting from the entrance way, she rubbed down the walls and put on a fresh lick of paint in the foyer.
On Thursday morning she walked the halls and there was no new litter left about so she got on with the painting up the stairs. Things were going well. And she woke on Friday to carry on the painting with a happy heart. To her surprise she noticed that the door had been fixed into the store cupboard. And later in the afternoon another resident asked if they could help with the painting and said that her son can do murals and maybe he could do one on the entrance wall outside. Over time more people started to get involved and crime started to reduce as people learnt to care about their neighbourhood. Local people stopped avoiding the flats and some stopped to chat to residents who worked outside on the gardens.
The reality of this story is that it may have taken weeks or even months/years to get to the point that people started to respect their space again and changed the way they looked after it and worked together.
I think what I love about this story is that the change came, not from people getting together to complain, but it started with direct action of one person who quietly inspired others to join in. Of course it is idealistic and many places need much more support and infrastructural change than a lick of paint and someone with a good hoover. And not every block of neglected flats has someone with the energy and ambition to get on and start a project like this themselves. But a small change can ripple out to have a much larger impact.
These flats could be anywhere. It only takes one person to care about somewhere to change a place and people’s attitudes to it.
Community projects with Greenstone Design
Greenstone Design is working with schools, community centres and enterprise areas to look at ways that small actions can be a catalyst for bigger change towards regeneration. Little projects which shout that someone cares about the area. These projects cannot be delivered by someone from outside, they need to be inspired by the people who live and work there every day.
If and when these little community projects take off we will post about them on here. It’s not always about a major refurbishment or demolishing and starting again with something bigger and better. Sometimes it is just about seeing our streets in a different way.