Russell Pepper, Eilish Victoria and Manuela de los Rios teamed up to pitch their idea at our annual Amps Forum, where the network comes together to vote on the Community Ideas Fund—an annual fund that encourages Amps to collaborate on a project that will result in a positive social impact in Dundee.
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At last December’s Amps Forum, we presented to our fellow Amps our vision to transform the Hilltown Park into a place that local people love, and that makes them feel well and do well in their lives. Located in the Hilltown area of Dundee—recognised as one of the most deprived areas in Scotland—we wanted to develop a sense of ownership and pride for the community in the place where they live, work and play. We recognised the Hilltown Park as being a key place where people can connect with others and opportunities in their neighbourhood, enjoy the natural and built environment, and feel safe.
Our collaborative team consisted of Russell Pepper, Eilish Victoria and Manuela de los Rios. Russell is director of Open Close mural trail in Dundee and advocate for sustainable travel in Dundee, chairing the Dundee Cycling Committee and the West End Community Forum. Eilish is an Urban Designer with a background in working with communities to design better spaces and services through a co-design approach. Manuela is a community garden mentor at The MAXwell Centre, designing and co-ordinating their outreach programme to maximise the Hilltown community’s potential and wellbeing.
Collectively we believe that change in most neighbourhoods is currently decided by people who don’t live in them, and this needs to change. Communities are generally consulted about the redesign of their own neighbourhoods in the late stages of developments, at which point their contribution is often limited to a vote for or against. Rarely are they involved in a collective creative process of rethinking their area that brings them together and allows them to take ownership and develop the full potential of their own interests, skills and spaces.
Our pitch to the Amps Community Ideas Fund proposed a hands on, community led approach to imagine a new “Hilltown Community Plaza”. This was inspired by the New York City Plaza programme, a tactical urbanism project creating more space for people that was started in New York City by Janette Sadik Khan. “Tactical Urbanism” is used in forward thinking cities around the world and makes use of quick low cost interventions to quickly show people how different things could be.
Our co-design approach used simple materials to test ideas through a playful and engaging participatory process; moving from discussion based consultations to physical placemaking and occupying spaces within the park. We were delighted to find that our fellow Amps were as passionate about the subject as us, and supported our vision for the future of the Hilltown Park and community consultation approach in general.
Initial consultation for the project involved connecting with groups already established in the area: the Hilltown Community Centre, local primary schools, the Community Council and The MAXwell Centre. From there we were able to start gathering ideas that had already been discussed for the park space as well as the community’s concerns about it. This was really valuable for us and helped us structure the ideas we wanted to explore in the following workshops. Manuela also led groups at The MAXwell Centre’s MAXhour to make small initial improvements to the park to strengthen the sense of ownership, build skills and create positive community experiences in the park.
On Sat 26 and Sun 27 June we held two intensive workshops around the themes of Meet, Eat, Grow and Play. We welcomed a diverse range of participants who lived in the Hilltown area, and throughout the day guided them through a process of sharing their ideas, occupying the park, testing their ideas in-situ with simple materials and adapting the concepts into feasible design solutions. Through the workshops some key themes became clear including: sociable seating and sheltered meeting areas; sharing food together; edible planting areas as a constantly accessible resource for the community; improved biodiversity; sensory elements; and better play spaces for all ages.
For the next stage of the project we will continue with regular community consultation but exploring different ways that this can be done to make it accessible to as many residents as possible. We were keen for our initial workshops to be an intensive day long process in order to quickly develop ideas and build a core community group, but we understand that a whole day event is not ideal for many people. We’ll continue with a test and consult approach, slowly moving towards permanent change within the park that as many people as possible have helped to shape. We hope to continue to develop our relationships with other organisations in the area too, so that there is a cohesive vision across Hilltown that everyone feels a part of.
We would like to say a huge thank you to Creative Dundee and the Amps community for their support, all our fantastic creative collaborators, and the opportunity that the Community Ideas Fund gave us to trial our ideas and give us confidence that this was something that was viable, important and applicable to communities around the city who want to be a part of positive change in their neighbourhoods.
Photos 1-8: Lydia Smith (@misslydiaphoto) Dundee
Photos 9-11: Eilish Victoria
The Community Ideas Fund is made possible thanks to our Amps network. Each year, 50% of everyone’s subscription helps fund an exciting new collaboration that benefits Dundee. New supporters are always welcome—join Amps and help make Dundee even better, and find out about how you can apply for this year’s fund.
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