Social Housing is going to end any day now because cash-strapped councils are demolishing large estates and London is being overrun by the private property market. But is it really the end of an era or a chance for us to rethink what housing is really for?

Lambeth has a very long and proud history of housing co-ops, and this community event held in November 2018 held at Brixton Library used our felted community map to tell the story of the origins of Brixton Housing Cooperative and celebrate the contribution housing co-ops have made to London Borough of Lambeth.

Community housing shaped by the 1981 Brixton Riots

Like so many housing co-operatives in London, Brixton Housing Co-operative was formed in the late 1970s at a time when many London councils had a large amount of housing stock that had fallen into disrepair. Today the private property market has transformed the landscape of London and this is hard to imagine. We had made a felted map with members of Brixton Housing Co-op in October and for our engagement event we asked people to help us add to the map with their own memories and screened a short film contrasting TV footage from Railton Road shot in the aftermath of the Brixton Riots in 1981 with the heavily gentrified street it is today. We also invited people to play our very own ‘gentrification game’ designed to help community-led housing groups develop their own Gentrification Policy. Alongside these activities we exhibited our map of housing co-operatives in London and asked people to document their hopes and visions for the future of social housing.

Why use a felted map?

The soft, tactile materials of felt emphasise the domesticity of our homes, too often forgotten in the image of bricks and mortar. The bright colours are friendly, the wool is pliable and can be moulded without requiring much training or knowledge. The activity of mapping helps participants to situate their stories spatially, understand the context. The shared activity allows people to come together and share stories through an activity that stirs the imagination and encourages creativity. Doing something with your hands, helps you to visualise and articulate the stories and memories of home we have to tell.

Why a film of Railton Road Then and Now?

This worked well playing on a loop both in the background but people sat down to watch the film as it prompted stories and memories.