Politicians shown the way by innovative community project The Hive Dalston
- Credit: Archant
A London Mayoral hustings in Dalston saw candidates quizzed on all the major issues in the capital. But the very building they were in was a great example of how authorities and businesses can work with the public to find solutions to a lack of funding and space.
Politicians were shown how communities can work together to solve the housing and funding crises when they entered the unfamiliar territory of a Dalston community centre for a mayoral hustings.
The panel, which featured London Mayoral candidates George Galloway and Sian Berry, could have been forgiven for thinking they were in the wrong place as they stood outside the ugly office block in Kingsland Road.
But The Hive – Human Interest Versatile Environment – is a million miles away from the nine-to-five world of suited executives.
The independent, voluntary and self-funded organisation Respace Projects moved into the building last May on a “meanwhile lease” after it had lay empty for eight years.
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“We managed to get it for basically nothing through Hackney Community Voluntary Services,” said member Phoenix Rainbow. “The landlord Investland said we could use it and we moved in with virtually no budget. Now we get 200 people in here on weekends. We have everything from young rappers performing to Holocaust survival victims speaking. We’ve helped small businesses start up.”
Across the four floors there’s a stage, recording studio, cafe and plenty of floor space for workshops and events such as this.
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So it was an apt location for a panel of politicians to be quizzed on London’s housing crisis and the lack of funding for councils.
“There’s 90,000 empty buildings in London,” added Phoenix. “We want to find out what these people would do to solve the housing crisis.”
Alongside Respect candidate Mr Galloway and the Green’s Ms Berry were London Assembly candidates Adrian Hyyrylainen-Trett (Lib Dem) and Shaun Bailey (Con).
Chairing the hustings was Abiodun Olatokun of Bite the Ballot, a political education initiative that encourages engagement among young people.
The audience of about 30 people sat ready to pounce as the panel answered questions prepared at workshops the previous day.
They tussled over austerity, the housing crisis and renewable energy as audience members applauded and heckled.
Among the more animated members was a Mr Piers Corbyn, or his “brother’s brother” as he introduced himself.
He lambasted Labour councils for knocking down council homes and won a fan in Mr Galloway, who said he had wished he’d come up with the list of eight-points he put to them on social cleansing.
One question from the audience resulted in the panel all agreeing to sign a Respace Projects petition aimed at the future Mayor of London for a “respacing classification” to be introduced in planning laws.
The system would make it easier for councils, community groups and landlords to work in freeing up empty buildings, like the one they were in, for temporary use.
As it stands, they said, commercial buildings are being wasted as landlords leave them empty for years because of current red-tape issues with meanwhile leases.
And they will be hoping the classification is introduced for more reasons than one. The Hive’s lease runs out in August and the group are looking for a Hackney developer to let them use a vacant building to continue their positive work.
Any developers who are interested in the idea or who can help in any way should email email@example.com.