Stories of Chrisp Street (SOCS) is a community project to archive important stories of a changing neighbourhood. Stretch aims to collect and show oral histories and digital stories from Chrisp Street Market in London E14 – this is one of the last traditional East End markets in a rapidly changing part of London; the fast approaching gentrification from Canary Wharf is a sparkling monster slowly eating up the landscape. Stretch has two practitioners that live in the area and has become very involved in the community. Stretch is currently delivering digital storytelling projects to the criminal justice community, but our history is in museums, galleries and heritage. We are looking to reignite our passion for heritage and this is the perfect project to reconnect with that world. We have made our initial investigations in the area and have been offered the rooms in the Chrisp Street Salvation Army building, the oldest in London. We also have the support of Jim’s Cafe in the market which is full of photos from the 60’s, and the Festival Pub on the market. Digital stories are becoming more and more recognised as a valid and accessible way to record powerful histories; museums have used them extensively in the UK and abroad and we believe a museum can connect with a community by collecting and archiving these stories. Stretch Trustee Foetini Aravani works at The Museum of London and she will be advising on the collection and display/digitisation of the stories.
The Poplar area has recently been granted £2 million from the Mayor’s regeneration budget to ‘transform’ the area into a fashion, shopping and housing hub. Poplar Harca plans to redevelop the old market square and surrounding estates between 2017 and 2020, and replace them with a modern shopping precinct with cinema, restaurants, leisure and cultural facilities, and 750 new homes. We will focus on the tradesmen and residents directly around the square and the market, who are being pushed out with no guarantees of return. These will be lost voices. It is documented in council discussions that they do not feel listened to – digital stories are a great way to preserve heritage stories but also give a platform to voices. The centre has a proud history; it was originally designed by Frederick Gibberd as part of the ‘living architecture’ element of the 1951 Festival of Britain and was the first pedestrianised shopping centre of its kind. This redevelopment, after the Second World War, provided a central square that became not only the first pedestrian shopping centre in Britain but also a landmark in new urban design. We will profile a few of the locals that we work with and ask them to show us ‘their’ Chrisp Street. The iconic 50’s housing around the market is due for demolition; we have use of one of the flats as a base to work from within the market. London is famous for its East End Markets; this is the last of its kind and is scheduled for complete change – there needs to be a collection of stories before they are gone forever. Locals will make better sense of what is happening to their surroundings and the unfolding satires will be archived digitally.