We Make Our City Festival: A celebration of community made by everyone, for everyone

| Robin Forrester

On a bright Saturday morning in November, hundreds of local people came together in Barking and Dagenham to celebrate the We Make Our City Festival

Run by Every One Every Day, the festival was held at The Warehouse, the largest public makerspace in London. The programme featured everything from classes on wild beekeeping and ceramics to lectures on how to start a collaborative business.

Creative workshops and lectures at the We Make Our City Festival (1)
Creative workshops and lectures at the We Make Our City Festival (2)

The festival came at a good time for the local community. Moods were low after they had recently received some bad press.

A few weeks before, a government report named Barking and Dagenham as the most deprived local authority in London and the 5th most deprived in the UK. The borough has shocking levels of unemployment, homelessness and domestic violence. There’s also a remarkably high turnover of residents; every year 8% of people move out. 

But thanks to events like the We Make Our City Festival, the borough is starting to be known for something more positive.

Barking and Dagenham is now home to Every One Every Day, an inspiring initiative that enables and supports local people to launch their own creative projects and businesses. 

Every One Every Day runs four high street shops and one large makerspace. The idea is simple: local people can pop into one of the shops to discuss their ideas and start working with the support of a design team to bring their project to life.

It often starts with neighbors helping each other in simple everyday tasks, like batch cooking and bicycle repairs. But by building bridges in the community these projects help address complex and costly social problems like poverty, homelessness, unemployment and loneliness.

Founded in 2017 by the Participation City Foundation, the project is awe-inspiring in its ambition and one of the largest of its kind in the world. The five-year, £7.2m experiment aims to involve 25,000 residents and create more than 250 community projects.

Led by Tessy Britton, the organisation was founded after 7 years of research into the most successful models for creating change. The initiative is underpinned by the belief that it’s essential to involve local people in the planning and delivery of social projects. “All the research says that it is the participation itself which is impactful — and that’s what we’re finding,” says Nat Defriend, Deputy Chief Executive of Every One Every Day.

An open lecture on The History of Making in Barking and Dagenham

Councillor Saima Ashraf, Deputy Leader and Cabinet Member for Community Engagement, said the scheme offered fantastic opportunities for the borough: “Residents told us they wanted a more integrated, cohesive community with a renewed sense of community spirit. This ground-breaking initiative will offer people the chance to shape where they live.”

After the success of the We Make Our City Festival, the recent report naming Barking and Dagenham as the most deprived borough in London serves as an important reminder that organisations like Every One Every day are needed more than ever.

Find out about the projects you can get involved with here.

Images by Every One Every Day

Thanks to Ash Group Ltd for sponsoring this Ideas Hub article.

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