The art of community engagement

29.08.23 3 min read by Iona MacRury

Since work began at our Manor Road Quarter project, it’s been a great showcase for how creating new neighbourhoods like this can generate positive social impacts and increase opportunities for those living in the area.

To achieve this, ECF and Morgan Sindall Construction, knew that the onsite activity would need to go far beyond simply bricks and mortar. This saw the project team place a strong emphasis on community engagement, with a particular focus on exploring how they could help East London’s younger generation shape their future.

Elizabeth Wright, Senior Development Manager at ECF, explained why this approach is important:

At the heart of the work that we do lies the understanding that sustainable communities are not just built with structures but through shared aspirations and connections with local networks. ”
This outreach and engagement has taken several forms, including providing local young people with work experience opportunities alongside the site’s design, site management and electrical engineering teams, as well as T-Level industrial placements and school careers events. To date, we’ve engaged with more than 1,800 students from across the borough.”

A blank canvas for imaginative minds

An example of this activity was a recent collaboration with St. Luke’s Church of England Primary and Stratford Manor School. Both schools are local to the Manor Road Quarter site, with St. Luke’s being only a mile down the road and next to a previous regeneration project ECF undertook at Rathbone Market. The important role that this school plays in the local area is underlined by the fact that it has been teaching Canning Town’s youngest residents since 1864.

To help the students understand the Manor Road Quarter project and what the space would be like once completed, Year 5 pupils were given a tour of the site. Recognising their creativity, the students were asked to share their thoughts on regeneration and what it means to them. The pupils expressed their ideas and thoughts with drawings, giving our team valuable insights unavailable in an ordinary consultation.

Monica Paul, Morgan Sindall Construction’s Social Value Manager, said:

“Collaborating with both schools was extremely important, as they are very close to the Manor Road Quarter Development, and we wanted them to be involved in the accredited Arts Award project.”

The ‘Arts Award’ programme, which is run by the Arts Council England and Trinity College London, encourages exploration of art and the investigation of different art forms. The award helps to influence children’s use of innate creativity, curiosity, confidence and communication skills.

Monica said: “We asked students what regeneration meant to them and using the words to describe regeneration, students designed posters for the construction hoarding. All students completed an Arts Award logbook which has been sent to the awarding body Trinity, so their achievements can be recognised with an Arts Council England – Discover Arts Award.”

The paintings depicted a community adorned with green spaces, shops, playing areas, and new homes – all testaments to their future hopes. To preserve these insights and share them with the rest of Canning Town, the pictures were printed and installed on the development’s hoarding along Manor Road.

Monica encapsulated the initiative’s spirit, saying: “As part of our social commitment, we engage with people of all ages, to raise awareness about our building works in the area, and to involve local people in shaping their community.”

The children's artwork displayed on the hoarding on site.

Designing tomorrow’s Canning Town

The future of East London depicted in the artwork aligns very much with ECF’s intention to create a neighbourhood where inclusivity and well-being thrive. This is illustrated by our commitment to include 50% affordable housing and combine this with commercial spaces and over 2.9 acres of beautifully curated green space, which together will ensure a holistic community experience.

While just one of many engagement activities, Monica Paul explained that: “The Accredited Arts Project demonstrates our commitment to building strong relationships with the community and highlighting the importance of arts and culture in the area.”

And it’s not just changing how Newham is going to look and where people live, as Manor Road Quarter is also delivering employment and skills opportunities that are helping local people right now. This includes the creation of 352 job vacancies for people who were previously unemployed or were employed specifically for the Manor Road project, of which the vast majority were secured by Newham residents. In addition, five students are employed at Manor Road full time and as of July, 9% of the 615 operatives onsite are from the local borough.

Creating apprenticeships is also another key way to maximise the value of the project. So far, 36 apprentices have been appointed by Morgan Sindall Construction and subcontractors, providing valuable opportunities for upskilling local people and giving them a start in the construction sector.

Empowerment beyond boundaries

Manor Road Quarter’s community empowerment extends well beyond the immediate site. Through initiatives like the Accredited Arts Project, presentations and engagement with charities and schools, Options Day events and work experience placements, we aim to inspire and educate the younger generation about future possibilities.

By involving local schools, educating young minds, and emphasising creative expression, the project is solidifying a legacy of social value, inclusivity, and community engagement that will continue to shape the lives of residents long after the final brick has been laid.

With construction of the project’s 32-storey tower nearly at its highest point and the second phase of Manor Road Quarter having just received planning consent, the teams at ECF, which includes Muse, Homes England, and Legal & General,  are looking forward to continuing this work with Newham’s residents and pupils moving forward.

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