IGP Stories

Prosperity in east London: a citizen’s view

Gillian Chan

14 August 2023

Housing inequality, the changing face of racism, inadequate support for people with special educational needs and disabilities, safety, crime, and mental health. These were the themes explored during an interactive art exhibition titled ‘Prosperity in east London: a citizen’s view’, showcased at the Applecart Arts theatre from 14 – 21 August.

Over the course of 3 months in Spring 2023, citizen social scientists Abdul Aleem, Alexis Charles, Lorraine Owusu, Terry Regan, Twinkle Jayakumar, Victorine NGOBO, and Zeinab (not her real name), worked with east London artist Alaa Alsaraji to co-create a series of artworks exploring the barriers to prosperity communities in east London face.

The content for the exhibition drew from the research that the citizen social scientists had conducted as part of the Prosperity in east London 2021-2031 Longitudinal Study, expanding them into poignant pieces that reveal the complex layering of social-political factors hindering prosperity.

The study, led by the PROCOL UK research team at the Institute for Global Prosperity at UCL, is a 10-year mixed-methods study tracing the effects of large-scale and long-term urban regeneration on local communities in east London. Alongside the exhibition, we also ran a series of talks and walking tours for residents, community organisations, academics, policymakers, and artists to view the exhibition and spark dialogue on the themes highlighted by the exhibition.

In particular, officers from Newham Council participated in a guided tour of the exhibition led by the citizen social scientists and Alaa, which ended in a fruitful dialogue and space for questioning.

In total, more than 150 attendees participated in the side events.

At the end, participants were asked to leave their thoughts on what they would say to policymakers in the exhibit’s final interactive piece – a hanging scroll of paper.

One person wrote: “Make an effort to find out people’s needs, be more engaged, and visit areas more. Don’t assume to know”

Speaking to a government official who attended the exhibition later, I asked them what they thought about the responses on the scroll. They said, “it makes me want to do better”.

The exhibition was funded by the UCL East Engagement Seed Fund and is part of the Institute for Global Prosperity’s Prosperity in east London 2021-2031 Longitudinal Study, which was co-designed with members of the London Prosperity Board and is jointly funded by: Royal Docks, Lendlease, London Legacy Development Corporation, Hill Group, Poplar HARCA, and the London Boroughs of Hackney, Waltham Forest, and Barking and Dagenham.

About the study:

Prosperity in east London 2021-2031 is a 10-year mixed-methods study tracing the effects of large-scale and long-term urban regeneration on local communities in east London. Drawing on 3 waves of Citizen Prosperity Index household surveys and citizen-led qualitative research, the study aims to examine how regeneration affects the prosperity of people from different backgrounds and neighbourhoods in the long term, asking: "Who benefits and how?", "What are the obstacles to prosperity for different groups?", and "What does prosperity mean to local communities?"

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