Working On Build Up Hackney Project

Shenique Bass

Hi, my name is Shenique, and I am a young adult working with the Build Up team in my local community. As a lifelong Hackney resident, I’ve never had a say on what happens where I live, so I wanted to take part in a project transforming my local area. For the last 6 months we have been working with young people from two local schools, Cardinal Pole Secondary and Berger Primary, to design and create a new space that they can identify with.

One of the things that drew me towards the project was the chance to experience a wide range of activities and skills. The placement offered me the opportunity to work with the youth and gain experience in a field that I wanted to work in. I currently study architecture and was interested in the urban redevelopment already happening in the community, and what it meant to those who live and work around here. There are a lot of new buildings and construction occurring throughout Hackney in which many local residents and young people have no say in. This has led to disparity among those who have been living here for a long time, and those who have recently opened businesses or moved here. I think it’s important that, with all of the gentrification happening, we have spaces that we can identify with and that allow the community to gather. More often than not, areas of Hackney are being taken and made more luxurious to attract people with more money, but don’t consider those who are already living there. This results in many working class or lower income middle class families being outpriced and not considered. Being a part of creating something like the Build Up Hackney project helps to spark an interest for a stronger cultural background, where they can take ownership of a local space which is important to them, particularly as it is something the local kids have designed themselves.

One of the most gratifying things about the project was the amazing relationship I was able to build with my own community and the local young people. I had so many people pass by and tell me what a great job we were doing, and ‘where will you be going next, can you come to us?’. It made me realise even more how often we need projects like this to exist.

I think through this opportunity I was able to also inspire some of the young people around me to be confident in what they do. For example, many of the young people were very creative, but were not confident in their abilities to design. However, I had the chance to motivate them and show them that they can do anything if they set their mind to it. This pushed them to continue creating a design for the site as a group, and take pride in their beautiful designs.

Growing up in Hackney, we didn’t have many opportunities like this exposed to us. Opportunities like this are important, because they show us that there are many things we can do and be. On the project, we had many different types of professionals: from artists, to youth workers, from architects to tree specialists. They came in and showed the kids what they did, and how they can use their jobs to help transform the local community.

One of the things I took away from this project is the power and determination of the youth to learn and transform their local area. Build Up Hackney has allowed not only the youth to do this, but also myself. Things that I didn’t feel confident in before, I feel a lot more confident in now. For example, I learnt how to use different tools which I was scared to operate before, like angle grinders and circular saws. I also became more confident in leading sessions with the kids, something I couldn’t have imagined myself being confident in doing before!  I can positively say that the kids and I take pride in what we have created, and in the future I hope for more youth to be able to experience the same thing.