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Welcome to the Shoreditch Village Hall

October 11, 2013

The opening ceremonies


Last night I was invited to the official opening of the Shoreditch Village Hall, accessed via Hoxton Square. Because of my age and my interests, I am very familiar with Hoxton Square, over 25 years I have watched it rise from a neglected piece of East London – to a vibrant cultural and commercial hub. Even White Cube started out life there.

And I always feel at home in the East End, as it is where my parents and grandparents and great-grand parents at the very least, came from. Home can have very deep roots.

The place was packed not by a group of individuals, but by a community. The fire starters of this project are Jonathan Lister, Joshua Bradley and James Governor. Their mission was to create a space that could meet the needs of a local community and also contribute to that community, via workshops, and education or training – with the idea this could also be fun. They were going to move into a different property but at the last minute they were gazumped by a mystery buyer. Heartless really when you see what happens when people came come together to create local community. Yes its all about localism, and I reflected on that muse standing in this old / new wonderful building, because my work has a great deal to do with community, meaning, identity – connectedness, the invisible stuff that binds us together, unifies us, and consequently gifts us common ground. James Governor said to me, ‘we just didn’t have anything like this in Shoreditch’.

Heimat: This place felt good, it was what Germans call Heimat. Heimat is a German concept. People are bound to their heimat by their birth and their childhood, their language, their earliest experiences or acquired affinity. Heimat as a trinity of descendance, community and tradition—or even the examination of it — highly affects a person’s identity. That is what we were doing making meaning and connection in a physical place. Funny that with all the digital guys and gals, and the spectrum is 20’ish to 60, the best place to be is physically together. Embodied, con-joined even if its a queue for the loo or having a cigarette together illicitly on the street. And whilst people snapped away with their their Instagram apps, selecting their filters, and social networks they were going to publish too. The meaning was made because we were all in the same room together, all at the same time. The Shoreditch Village Hall – is both shelter and hearth that future generations may enjoy.

The Wall of Awesome is now full

The Wall of Awesome is now full

The wall of awesome: As one walks in there is what is called the Wall of Awesome. It is a list of all the names of the people that contributed to the Kickstarter campaign that raised just shy of £100k (here the project description) Crowdfunding is a powerful tool for regeneration – its also more meaningful, more meaningful for the people on the Wall of Awesome. There is a powerful sense of connectedness and ownership, that never would have come from a third party grant handed down. In many ways the social process of crowdfunding made the Village Hall feel more sacred because, the community were all invested – financially, emotionally, socially – are all interwoven. And it is through this hidden process of interweaving that we create a powerful personal and collective sense of identity – of meaning and greater purpose. This is the power of what Lewis Hyde would call the Gift Economy. This gift is however embodied with meaning, it is sacred because it is shared.

It takes a village:  said Juliette Morgan  who gave a passionate speech on the role of a village in a digital economy, and Cllr Guy Nicholson, Cabinet Member for Regeneration, spoke eloquently about the importance of Shoreditch Village Hall. Shoreditch Works says,

Our aim is to make it the best place to work in the UK and ensure that local people benefit too with schemes like the Hackney Community College Apprenticeships and The Shoreditch Works Foundation.

Is it not remarkable, that this understanding of a shared ownership of civic space, that an open platform that welcomes all plays a considerable and important role in modern societies, is not understood by more people? That place, civic space and place becomes the heartbeat for a community? This takes me back to my algorithm of I+We=Why? And In Community and Society by Ferdinand Tönnies (Gemeinschaft und Gesellschaft first published in 1887) which is a classic of social and political theory, Tönnies explores the clash between small-scale neighbourhood-based ‘communities’ and large-scale competitive market ‘societies’, and what happens when the later tears the other asunder.

Shoreditch Village Hall, we wish you well with your EPIC Win.

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