We were joined by a small crowd of interested people for our first film night. It was a brilliant opportunity to share inspiring examples of successful housing initiatives across the UK and beyond.
The first film we watched was 'Bonnington Square', made by Alistair Oldham, which tells the story of this Vauxhall square being squatted – with gardens, workshops and community spaces being set up alongside the housing – and how it's developed over the forty years since.
This prompted a lot of reminiscing from those who had visited/ spent time in the square, had eaten (and worked) in the cafe there, and from those who remembered the days of mass squatting.
Watch it here: "Bonnington Square" (Acacia films)
Our second film was made by the Co-operative Housing Federation of Canada to explain that co-op housing is “more than just a home” and “the best kept secret in Canada”. It featured lots of different voices, talking about how it feels to have a say in the place where you live, and the strength of community that comes about as a result, and on a personal level, how co-op housing has transformed their lives.
See it here: "Co-op housing more than a home"
We returned to London -specifically, our local borough, Lewisham- for the third film. This was an examination of three very different kinds of 'alternative' housing in this area:
the self-build Segal houses in Walters Way, the co-housing project at Featherstone Lodge, and artists' live-work studios in Havelock Walk. It raised some important issues - eg affordability and gentrification – that affect any attempts to create new housing in London.
Our final film of the evening was short and sweet, and showed that we can take control of not just our housing but also our work-places – by forming workers' co-ops as well as housing co-ops – and featured a small community in Scotland.
About half of our film audience moved across to Zoom afterwards to continue the discussion.
It was really good to e-meet people working on similar projects in other places (for example Forest CLT based in Waltham Forest), share information and talk about how we could collaborate more with each other.
There are plenty of people who would benefit from decent, affordable co-op housing. How do we expand our projects, involve more people, and make this kind of housing an option for somebody who's never even heard of co-ops?
There was some useful discussion about how this kind of 'outreach' can happen – both now, during the coronavirus crisis, and later. We talked about making more films of our own, and using social media/ web-based platforms, but also about spreading the word in the streets, whether that's by delivering leaflets through letter-boxes, stickers, 'micro-flyers' or talking to people outside supermarkets.
The discussion turned to the kind of support – including access to land to build on – that local councils could provide to community-led housing groups if the political will to do so existed. This would allow us to access more funding and guarantee our schemes' 'viability', and ultimately, produce more high-quality homes that remain truly affordable for generations to come.
Many Labour councillors are also members of the Co-operative Party, whose policies are strongly supportive of housing co-ops and 'Community Led Housing', so it will be interesting to see if any of them get on board with CASH and the other London-based CLTs to make these initiatives a reality.
Another short film which we loved – but didn't manage to squeeze into tonight's programme – was the one which inspired the name for the event. The student housing co-op movement is really taking off at the moment, with new groups forming in Sheffield, Glasgow, and many other cities. We're wondering if this is something Goldsmiths students might consider?
Watch it here: ‘No More Landlords’
Thank you again to everyone who came long to watch the films with us and/ or take part in the discussion afterwards. We'll be working co-operatively with other groups, co-ops and CLTs to put on and publicise more film nights in future – hopefully every month – so please do send in your suggestions of inspirational viewing.