Our Changing Neighbourhood project with Millman Street Community Centre
This summer, the Soane and the Millman Street Community Centre worked together on a project that looked at the changing locations of the local area inspired by the memories of local residents from the Centre’s Reminiscence Group. Here, Kenn Taylor, Community Education Officer, discusses the project and what was involved.
The Community Education Programme at the Soane is very varied, ranging from delivering audio described/touch tours for blind and partially sighted visitors, to undertaking sessions with English for Speakers of Other Languages students where we use the Museum as inspiration for activities to improve their language skills.
Another of our key programmes is undertaking outreach to older people who may not be able to visit the Museum itself. In particular, we have good relationships with day centres in our vicinity between Holborn and Kings Cross.
One group we have undertaken several projects with is the Millman Street Community Centre’s Reminiscence Group. Our most recent initiative - 'Our Changing Neighbourhood' - took place over four Tuesday afternoons in August. The group are all keen on history and very knowledgeable about the local area, especially all of the changes that have inevitably taken place in the centre of London over the last 60 or so years.
One of the 'Our Changing Neighbourhood' sessions, led by Kenn Taylor
Inspired by the unchanging nature of the Soane while so much around it has been transformed, we decided to look at some locations in the local area as they are now now, how they were in the more recent past and how they were in the time of Sir John Soane.
With the aid of a large map of the area, group members drew images and discussed where they had lived and the areas around it. They picked out places and buildings that were important to them, including many that had now gone, from homes to shops and workplaces, pubs and churches to playgrounds.
Reproduced map of the local area used in one 'Our Changing Neighbourhood' session
I then spent some time sourcing images and plans of some of the places that were brought up, which included making a visit to the nearby Camden Local Studies Centre. We then spent the next session looking over how these places had changed over two centuries and gathered memories people had of these locations from the recent past, from the ‘dark and foreboding’ Thanet Street School to Gamages, a department store on High Holborn “where you could get everything, even parts for your car!”.
In the remaining sessions the group members worked with artist Seiwa Cunningham to print some of the images we had found of changing places onto calico along with information we had uncovered about the locations and people’s own personal memories of them. These then attached to our large map to show where in the local area they were located. With several members being former seamstresses, the chance to work with textiles again went down well. The finished artwork is to go on display at the Millman Street centre to show off the group’s work. In the longer term, the piece, which folds up nicely, will be used as a resource by the Museum to undertake other sessions with older people in the local area to encourage their own reminiscences about their changing neighbourhood.
Three members of the Millman Street Community Centre’s Reminiscence Group during one of the Project's sessions
The Community Education Programme enables the Museum to reach as wide and diverse audience as possible. This is achieved through outreach sessions, events, projects, workshops, tours, and advisory panels to ensure that all of our communities can benefit from our unique Museum. If you would like to find out more about this programme, please click here.