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Reactivating Holloway

March 5, 2012

The Digital Activism strand of Building Local Activism has us also in Holloway in Islington, North London. We are supporting Holloway Neighbourhood Group (HNG) to use social media to connect and to galvanise Holloway residents to take charge of their community, to campaign for local issues which matter to them both online and offline, and to help deepen Hollowayers’ sense of place.

Within the last few months, HNG has been detecting an air of change and excitement along the Holloway Road, as the endless possibilities of digital tools are slowly becoming the talk of the beautiful and historic community centre, the Fire Station. The foundation for a new digital age of activism has begun in Holloway.

HNG is about to launch its own hyperlocal website, which will be the hub of digital activism in the area. Not only will it be a forum for distributing information, but with the right level of support provided in partnership with Media Trust, residents will have the opportunity to contribute to the website’s content and become empowered as ‘citizen journalists’. They will be invited to share views and opinions and organise campaigns around issues which matter to them.

A main drive in our Digital Activism strand of work is the development of learning tools for residents to become confident in using digital technology, from email and blogging, to social networking sites like Facebook. As we have mentioned in previous posts, the rise of social media is well documented and often illustrated through a series of remarkable facts such as:

  • Each Facebook user spends an average of 15 hours 33 minutes on the site each month.
  • YouTube generates 92 billion page views per month.
  • Twitter is adding half a million users each day.

The popularity of social media offers tremendous scope to support community action and lobbying for change, whilst equally generating wider interest from locals in the community. Traditional community development and organising can now take advantage of a variety of free, widely used communication tools to complement offline community activity.

Around the country, this has already taken on a variety of shapes, sizes and issues. From protecting green spaces in Richmond and Kingston to saving Lewisham’s library, local communities are increasingly seeing the benefit of digital activism in mobilising support and communicating their concern.

Despite the proposed tools and increasing use of social media, in our recent surveying of Holloway residents, visitors and workers, a total of 31% revealed they do not use the internet, so the importance of engaging people offline is equally vital.  The survey also identified some key issues facing residents in their community including homelessness; unemployment; crime; loan sharks; youths, gangs and antisocial behaviour; park and green spaces; and litter and cleanliness.

As HNG was born out of activism in the 1970s, there was an excitement at a recent trustees meeting, at the prospect of reengaging Holloway with local issues. They were equally thrilled at the role digital tools could play in mobilising the Holloway masses.  Examples such as the nearby Save Walthamstow Cinema campaign demonstrated how both online and offline activism can work effectively alongside each other and galvanise community spirit.

Through Spacehive, a funding platform for neighbourhood improvement projects, a proposal has already been drawn up to tackle the lack of green space in Holloway. Holloway Neighbourhood Group is looking to improve the space outside the local leisure centre and will provide another platform to engage the community and raise the profile of Holloway.

Holloway has a proven army of keen gardeners as seen in the recent short film ‘Wild Places’ for the ‘Film in a Day’ worshop as part of the Reel Islington Film Festival.

Reflecting on the survey work, the trustees were particularly drawn to the problem of loan sharks and money lenders in the area and were buoyed by the Church Action on Poverty campaign in Manchester against the moneylenders Brighthouse. They want to explore similar options for Holloway.

The meeting concluded with a real buzz of optimism and excitement.  The next stage is for us to work closely with the Chief Executive of HNG to devlop ideas for campaigns using online and offline methods, to give the community the voice it deserves.

Watch this space, as undoubtedly more exciting developments will get underway in Holloway in the upcoming weeks and months.

N7 by Nicobobinus on Flickr

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