The Westway: four decades of community activism
– CivicWise

A walk along the Westway, the largest elevated urban highway in Europe, located is West London. The area below and around the Westway has witnessed intense community activism in the last four decades. There is a diversity of groups campaigning and developing community initiatives. The land below the highway is leased to the largest Community Land Trust in the UK and it is aimed for community activities. This pioneering initiative is being challenged and there is a group campaigning for maintaining the essence of the Community Land Trust. The area has also the first Neighbourhood Plan in London, developed by the St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum and approved by referendum by the community. At the same time, the area is suffering from pressure from the real estate market and social housing tenants are under threat of displacement. The film reproduces a four-mile walk along the Westway, meeting and interviewing a representative from each of the three community initiatives: Grenfell Action Group, St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum and Westway23.

The film aims to explore different forms of community activism, their objectives, their strategies or actions and their results so far. It uses observational and interactive methods. It was filmed during a walk along the Westway (London) organized by Marco Picardi and CivicWise. During this walk, the London CivicWise group meets three representatives of community initiatives and to talk about their campaigns or neighbourhood plan. It first interviews a housing campaigner from Grenfell Action Group that talks about the struggles that social housing tenants are suffering to avoid displacement. Secondly, a member of St Quintin and Woodlands Neighbourhood Forum shares his successful initiative to put together and bring to force a Neighbourhood Plan. Lastly, a member of Westway 23 explains the history of the Westway Community Land Trust and explains their campaign to keep the essence of the trust: using the space below the flyover for community initiatives.

The walk is a CivicWise initiative, part of a series called Civic Walks. It was planned by Marco Picardi, who is involved in campaigns in the area and is developing his research about it. The walk consisted in a journey along the flyover, guided by three representatives of community initiatives. The CivicWise group met the interviewees in different parts of the walk to talk about their campaign or initiative.

Walking, listening to people and filming is a very effective methodology to understand community campaigns, initiatives and actions. The CivicWise London Circle, with the aim of better understanding the diversity of community campaigns across London, is organising a series of Civic Walks: walks around an urban area to meet and interview community members that aim to participate actively in the decisions about their surrounding environment. The Westway has been the first of these Civic Walks. Part of this initiative is to film the walks and interviews to produce a series of documentary films about community activism in London. This series of films helps to recognize and visualize the strength and importance of community activism in London.
CREDITS: Directed by Pablo Sendra. Preliminary research and plan of the walk: Marco Picardi. Interviewees: Edward Daffarn, Henry Peterson, Toby Laurent Belson. Filmed by Pablo Sendra. Editing: Estrella Sendra and Pablo Sendra. Sound: Pablo Sendra and Aitor Fernández.

Text by Pablo Sendra, Lecturer at University College London and Connector at CivicWise London.

CivicWise is an international community of people working on fostering collaborative urbanism, promoting civic innovation and inspiring better civic engagement.


Volume 1, no. 1 March 2017