Who is SPID? SPID is a mixture of residents and non residents, specialists and locals who run Kensal house estate community rooms and champion high quality community theatre on council estates. As a registered charity our remit is to advance education by the promotion of the arts, citizenship and community development. We are not for profit which and have no shareholders. About half of our staff and participants are local, but we also have a national profile in terms of touring UK estates and getting estate residents on the news. Both locally and UK wide, we advocate social housing.
What is SPID’s ethos? The award winning charity has been fighting and celebrating social housing since 2004. We are based in the modernist estate of Kensal House in West London, although we often partner with estates both locally and around the country. Our award winning work happens off stage and up close in estate community spaces and parks. We celebrate the true diversity embodied by social housings’ architecture, the way it unites people of every different age, class and race. Our work focuses on all we have in common; the spaces we share, the heritage that belongs to all of us, and the youth of tomorrow, for whom we are all responsible.
Does anyone from Kensal or local estates come to SPID? Yes all our free activities (Far Far Away, Living History, Space Share, Community Hub ) have had and continue to have Kensal participants and residents of local estates. Some activities have been and are currently run by them too and we fundraise in order to pay for this community work. Many of our members are also residents.
Why is SPID based in Kensal House community rooms? SPID was first invited to run the community rooms by Kensal’s Residents Association in 2004 because the rooms were run down and residents did not have the time or means to manage them on their own. Over time, more and more local residents became members and joined our board. We’ve been trying to restore the space for 15 years and have so far invested around £80 000 in things like central heating and equipment to bring the flooded, neglected, mouldy rooms back into use.
Why does SPID have a lease? SPID worked hard with volunteers and fundraising to bring the community rooms back into use. When the council’s housing team tried to take over for profit, we asked for a 5 year lease – at which time we also registered the space as a community asset to stop it being sold off. But the lease was not long enough for us to be eligible for full refurbishment funding. We finally secured a long term lease when we proved that in return we would bring in funding to fully refurbish and scale up the community rooms.
How is SPID’s work paid for? We multifund all our work to keep autonomy and have funding from trusts, the lottery, the government and donations. Funding to refurbish Kensal House community rooms was secured on the basis of our strong track record was only possible because we’re a charity (rather than a residents only group). It is heavily ring fenced, whilst our own running costs remain low. As specified by the charity’s commission, we do not pay trustees for board duties – but in line with our constitution, are committed to paying both local residents and expert specialists for community work.
How does SPID propose to restore, extend and scale up the community rooms? After decades of neglect, we have finally secured funding to refurbish, extend and scale up the community rooms come 2020. We are in the development phase, and the proposed improvements are: restore original windows, fix dodgy electrics, fix leaks, replaster crumbling walls, provide proper fire exits, flooring, heating and facilities, create a new space using just one tenth of the garden, as funders require us to expand , extend greenery and roof garden , disabled access which still conserves the estates’ privacy, protective fencing and signage , free activities and cheap hire , pressure the council to invest in the whole estate
What consultation has SPID done on their refurb? We carried out a feasibility study with current users and residents back in 2016 when the garden was locked up and we had no funding. Since securing development funding and pressuring the council to open the garden, we have hosted three open consultations and five for Kensal residents only as well as carrying out surveys and continuing to fundraise. Our board and project board include Kensal residents who are also on Kensal’s Residents’ Association, and we have worked with them to negotiate a deal that’s in all our interests. Although creating an extension in the garden is a requirement of the refurb funding, reducing the green space lost is something the Residents Association asked us to do and we have responded by reducing the extension to just one tenth of the existing garden – which we are replacing by extending green space elsewhere around our building.
Why did SPID create The Burning Tower? SPID foresaw the need to dramatise the history of social housing and learn its lessons before it was too late. In 2016, the play was commissioned with the working title Home for Heroes. It grew out of our Living History program, where local young people interviewed people from Kensal, Silchester, Grenfell, Trellick and Edenham Way about their memories of estate life, During this research, Grenfell happened and became the play’s climax. The show takes its name from a tarot card symbolising the turmoil shaking society. We did not profit from the show, and insisted that those marketing the play made tickets available for free to estate residents. The Burning Tower’s assistant producer lost several friends to the fire and used the play as a platform for advocating social change. The play was described by The Guardian as a love letter to social housing. It secured unprecedented press and is being published and licensed out for free to council estate productions around the country.
What free activities does SPID offer? Tuesdays we run Far Far Away interactive drama for 8-13 year olds 4.45pm – 6.15pm. Wednesday we run Kung Fu for adults 7.30pm-8.30pm. Thursdays we run yoga 12-2pm. Saturdays we run Living History to dramatise estates’ history for 13-25 year olds. We also create free youth showcases in the form of films, radio plays and theatre shows every 3-6 months, and we provide free tickets to local estate residents who want to see our professional theatre shows. Plus we’re gearing up for a new homework club, so watch this space.
We love what we do and we can’t do it without you so we’d really love to see you soon!