In my years of freelancing in Deptford, YT has made every attempt to work with local businesses and organisations to get that buzz of ‘working in my community’, ‘feeling the synergy’ and err, what I personally call ‘thinking and acting local’. The last option may be the only piece of reading that is definitely not management/buzzword speak.
Now that is out of my system, YT can start again, with the story of the poor cousin of Lewisham and the non-existence of socially engaged business and support.
Until 1965, there existed a small borough next to Greenwich and Lewisham, a place called Deptford. It had been part of Kent, but up till the assimilation into Lewisham, the place had (and still has) a chequered, varied and colourful history politically, industrially and socially. YT is not going to explain too much, as you can read Turning the Tide if you really want to know more. When Deptford borough became part of Lewisham, it was a defining moment; Deptford became part of a greater whole, and left behind in many ways.
2016 happened to us all in many ways, for YT it incorporated visits to the council listening to the council ignore discussions about social enterprise (the only time this is mentioned: business with a social purpose is appropriate IMHO). There was a underwhelming visit to the skeleton of DEK.space in Ladywell too, with an introductory offer of £400/month for open plan office space! Not worth it and inappropriate for my needs. Sticking with the dialogue, and going to meetings with the chamber of commerce (we’re not all old fuddy duddies, but we do have an active golfing group). It was uninspiring and just more of the same – even when approaching the digital economy there is an apparent lack of understanding.
I’ll give an example: an app to garner cheaper parking through buying a minimum (YT thinks its £5) from a shop, but high street shops have no incentive than a possibility of trade; a place where the parking price is very high for the borough apparently, with plans to take away parking space for housing development. Then there is less possibility of trade, in the now and later: new people in an area go to Asda and Tesco instead of the independent with the parking app say-so? On to the library, loaning out iPads in an area when there is little chance anyone (who would rent it out for nothing) can afford to buy a new one. There is a technology talk brewing there, about who can afford an iPad, and who can afford an Android tablet.
Getting ready to leave the house for work and walk back in…
Lewisham has a very high proportion of people self employed people, and to be sure there are many working from home. Coffee shops are the historical place to go for working, with the digital twist making things very insular, a trait seen also in the pubs where the latest batch of young blow ins get to hang out in their own group. Bland and homogeneous places with little character, YT draws a conclusion that this misses the point of regeneration and where price points meet. ‘Street Food’ is the price of a sit down meal in a no frills but good cafe.
Then there is DEK Deptford, an apparently weekly drop in by an organisation that trains people in business, but gives no opportunity for local parents in schools, the people that use local services? As the Easter weekend finished, YT went to have a chat in the library to find out when the the Dek training offer runs – to find no inklings, ideas. Only vague notions of something that could have happened. Not great, inspiring or informative, as I had already been to the Dek web site over a week earlier and had filled in the application form. As I write this, I also notice the lack of local workshop notifications too, with a contact number in the site pointing to a private address.
Altogether frustrating and symptomatic of an outsourced situation which leads nowhere, but the path of the money is into someone’s pocket, which is great for their business, not the small start up.
Now my path has become too much of a maze – what does it take to get help to make a difference for local business in Lewisham, or rather Deptford, AKA Neighbourhood 1? After another search, I found Fenella Beckman in the Lewisham business and partnership team, with a proactive stance on finding out what is going on regarding my queries, and what seemed to be an invisible project of deteriorating compromises. I was then passed to Mac Wenham, project manager for the DEK Growth project (EU grant).
These conversations were followed up with a couple of chats with Ilona Utting offering to assist my situation, offering me an interview in Walthamstow – quickly rejected for the next available meeting in Lewisham. This in turn provided a pragmatic and useful meeting with the business adviser at Dek Catford, Lana Hersak. Apparently by signing to the DEK growth program YT is provided with some support from a business advisor. YT recalling now another adviser has taken Lana’s place, so not much of a relationship there.
Understanding PPS as a project – not just the name of the space…
This all prompted thinking as to working forward – get the best out of the offer, but this then became a movement back in time. April meet March, where YT visited VAL. Forward again, to an email to the amazing Chris and asked for advice about setting up a project; introducing me to Lillian, another amazing person. After a pause, follow up actions were attempted. The work YT was given: go through ‘creating a project’ and make my own…the document was quite hard to navigate in terms of separating information and places to fill in. Nonetheless last week I received some feedback and now to trim things down. The process of the project has now moved, realising how the service is delivered within the project needs – to be inclusive and informed by the space of the host. Think it’s time to revisit my portable IT suite.