People Empowering People

| Azad Sharma

We are always inspired by stories of people being active in their community. One theme that runs through these stories is ‘empowerment’; a word often masked by political chatter that is far better explained by the variety of community projects that bring people together.

A bridge between the council, local organisations and the community

People Empowering People (Pem People) is an example of a creative grassroots organisation whose work in Southwark, Peckham, and Brixton redefines what empowerment means from the perspective of togetherness, sustainability, and community engagement.

Founded by the passionate community enabler Nicholas Okwulu, Pem People reach out to all communities in the wards they are active in, providing skills and tools to create sustainable projects. Pem People aim to give communities classified as disadvantaged or ‘hard to reach’ a voice and a way to engage. Pem People gained charity status in 2014 but their work in their community stretches back as far as 2010.

Pem People form a bridge with the council, institutions and charities; enabling local residents the opportunity to showcase the wealth of talent that exists within the community. And they create opportunities for local people to initiate and develop solutions to local issues. With the increasing and fast regeneration in the borough, Pem People help local residents benefit from the rapid changes within the area.

Some of their great projects

We heard about Pem People through the Pem People Bike Project which has been running since 2014 and made the shortlist for the London Cycling Awards that year. The Bike Project is a collaboration with Lambeth Council to reduce the number of bikes going to landfills and increase physical activities in the most deprived wards in the borough. The project also provides training to young people interested in repairing bicycles. Sessions are held every Saturday at the Remakery in Brixton. Pem People founder Nicholas told us that he started this project after seeing lots of unused bikes in the area with local children often complaining that it was too expensive to get their bikes repaired. This video will tell you all about this project which gives local children access to affordable bike repairs:

Pem People also hold three pop-up shops in Peckham High Street which cater for community events and store bespoke African garments. Pem People are focussed on creating a space for the community to meet and showcase their work and in 2016 they founded the Livesey Exchange. This project, which has been recognised by London’s Mayor Sadiq Khan, aims to convert 60 abandoned garages to community and business use to benefit people around the Old Kent Road. They were recently awarded £270,000 in the Good Growth Fund. This is an exciting prospect for local residents and definitely one to watch out for in the near future!

They have also recently opened a brand new creative space, the TenPoint5ive gallery which showcases the work local artists. In keeping with their creative engagement, Pem People’s Southwark Untold Project will be in residence at the Tate Modern from the 26th June-1st July 2018 with a host of drop in activities, workshops, and exhibitions for adults and children. The Southwark Untold Project has worked since 2015 to capture the stories that make up community folklore and it’s great to see them hosting a week of great activities showcasing the work they’ve done.

What we love about Pem People is the diversity and volume of their projects (too many to do justice to here). To keep track of their work don’t forget to follow them on Twitter, or better still, get down to the Tate and check out their exhibition there.

Photo by Cristina Cerda

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