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The Ragged School Blog Deptford

Tuesday, April 11, 2006

Deptford Social Economy

In October 2005, a conference called 'Progressing the Social Economy' happened in the Old Seager Distillery, Deptford. I have just reviewed their website and thought it was an excellent example of local community action made visible through basic web technology. Of particular note is the archival of audio and rough transcripts summarizing each speaker, as ordered by appearance. I missed the conference but was able to learn so much from these transcripts. I wonder how many other similar constructive projects in Deptford are rendered invisible without this crucial web representation ?

Due to Deptfords long standing constitution as a matrix of 'underpaid artisans' the area has evolved to become expert in self provisioning. There is a wide range of co-operative activity where basic quality of life issues are developed in practical projects, almost always initiated by necessity. Amongst this matrix appears the traditional 'intervening philanthropists' who further embellish this provisioning with varying results. In these particular circumstances, it is interesting to see which social projects survive and thrive, and which decay, gracefully or otherwise. When money and sponsorship is scarce, the projects which choose innovation always survive - their legacy is transmitted beyond a set lifespan, their usefulness is unbounded by place or material fabric. 'How to get things done better' always distinguishes a lasting contribution to society and culture. The Albany theatre for instance is historically the result of an educational outreach project whose mission was to give access to education for the hundreds of 'gut girls' working in the slaughterhouse on the site which is now Convoys Wharf. The project has evolved over a century and is now a linchpin in Deptford, using performing arts as the most vibrant and effective form of inclusion.

More recent, digitally based projects such as Boundless.coop and Deptford.tv has moved the notions of outreach further on and into the realm of 'self provisioning media', using such places as the Albany site as a meeting facility. My recent trip with Deptford.tv showed how the Laban with its conferencing rooms is also able to provide this crucial space. By drawing on the local traditions of community participation, these activities initiated by local people is moving the discourse about 'regeneration' away from top down schemes mediated by institutions, governmental and 'traditional philanthropy' and toward local, flexible and innovation based projects powered by a sense of shared ownership.


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