Have you walked or cycled through the East Road subway recently? What has changed?!
Acting on resident concerns and feedback about the East Road subway being smelly, feeling unsafe and unpleasant, DIY Streets Marks Gate worked with artist Tom Berry to co-create and paint a mural inspired by some of the street names in Marks Gate: Whalebone Lane and Rose Lane. What do you think of the changes?
We have had fantastic feedback from everyone walking and cycling through the subway telling us it is a ‘100% improvement’ and has made them feel much safer and happier walking through it. Many people walk, run or cycle through the subway hundreds of times a week and it’s always been a miserable experience…but now people are smiling when they walk through. It has been amazing to see the impact of such quick and cheap changes – small things can make such a big difference!
However, nearly everyone walking through expressed fear and worry that the mural might get damaged or will soon be painted over with graffiti – despite hoping it wouldn’t be. This is a natural fear that all communities have and often the reason why change never happens or suggestions for improvements get shut down – for fear that a small group of people may ruin something for the others.
On the last day of the mural painting we organised a Clean-Up event in partnership with Agenda 21 and Clean-Up UK. We had over 40 Marks Gate residents and young people from the Borough who gave their time and energy all day – it was a wonderful effort and a huge of Marks Gate solidarity! Together we managed to collect over 30 bags of rubbish, two armchairs, a mattress from around the Lake and alongside the A12 as well as finishing off the painting in the subway and entrances. Everyone said they loved spending time giving something back to the area and were passionate about Marks Gate and making sure people feel proud of living on the estate and being part of the strong community spirit.
Talking to the young people who came and helped out from the Barking and Dagenham (BAD) Youth Forum and the Young Mayor I got a very different picture to the young people in the area who are often expected or assumed to be the cause of vandalism or anti-social behaviour. Instead the young people were passionate about finding ways to help out their community and wanted to be included in discussions for improvements and how to make their area safer and more attractive.
Jade Ramsey, a member of the BAD Youth Forum and Barking and Dagenham’s Deputy Member for UK Youth Parliament told us: “The community clean up project was great fun and what’s even better, is knowing that we gave back to the community by making it a better and a nicer place to live”.
Despite worries and concerns around the mural being damaged it’s good to remain positive about the changes we can all bring to our different neighbourhoods, however small or large. Evidence shows that when care and effort is put in (by fellow community members) to create something lovely, it’s unlikely to be damaged or abused by others compared to a blank canvas or a boring white wall which almost invites graffiti! Having high expectations of the people around us can be difficult but perhaps taking the risk can provide better outcomes for us all. I would argue not creating any change for fear of it going wrong in the end hurts and dis-empowers us all in the end.
Here’s a soundbite from a short interview I did with the Barking and Dagenham Young Mayor – have a listen – speaking with Angelica Olawepo made me feel much more positive about all of our collective futures! Have a listen and see what you think?