11 August 2022

Listening to the voice of local youth

What’s your name?
Abdi Aden. I’m the Earls Court Youth Club (ECYC) Centre Manager.

Tell us about ECYC’s involvement in the Hoarding art project.
The Earls Court Development Company commissioned a company called Global Street Art to create workshops and art competitions with us in 2020. They wanted our young people to work on the art that is displayed now on Lillie Road, in front of West Brompton station.

But that was just the start…
The hoardings were the springboard into the youth consultation. By November, they had taken us to a talk at Central Saint Martins University of the Arts London. That included an elaborate presentation on how urban planning and grand architecture can positively shape the community it serves. Then they took the children around the area to see what a typical development would look like and visited New London Architecture Gallery. We had 30 children taking part in the programme.

Is that how the manifesto came up?
I think ECDC realised they had the opportunity to just ask our children: ‘What do you guys think of it? Let us have young people's voice. Because in 20 years time, all of us adults will be 70, and you are going to be the service-users of what we're providing. Perhaps you need to give us your opinion?’

We've got children from all walks of life. You name it. And none of them are exempt from poverty. So this is really meaningful. Some were impressed that they were being consulted. Others felt they were just being consulted for a tick-box exercise and the key decisions had already been taken. We see how hard ECDC are working to rebuild the trust with the local community which was damaged by the previous property developer. This whole process has started to mend those fences.

ECYC members were offered a session with the ECDC site architects too…
We ended up having five consultations. The architects came to us and went through their plans and our young people were given the opportunity to feedback on it: To think about what the area ought to look like.

Some children said, ‘Look, if you’ve got 10,000 new children, the youth club isn't going to big enough. Do you have any facilities for children to do things? Whoever moves in are going to have children. How is it going to have a sense of community for them?’ That challenge was posed to the architects.

What do you make of the whole experience?
I want people to know that the ECDC Community Outreach team are really wonderful. I honestly believe it. They're going out of their way to do more than is necessary.

They're doing stuff that other developers could do but don't. Social impact; environmental. They make a huge difference to the community. They take interest. They have long-term-objectives.

They've asked me, 'What do you think we could be doing more?' And I just said, ‘You know what? Just keep on doing what you're doing.’