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Exhibition: Blackfriars SE1 in the 1970s / from 29 October 2021

A chance discovery of thousands of photographs in the archives of a London council has brought back to life a local community’s fight for survival and a new exhibition opening 29 October is telling the story. The exhibition features an extraordinary period of community action in the 1970s and 1980s in Blackfriars, Waterloo and North Southwark along London’s South Bank.

For many it was a fight for survival as businesses moved out and land was earmarked for office development leaving isolated communities struggling to maintain their way of life. “A timely exhibition around the effectiveness of community campaigning in the 70s and 80s as the area continues to face development pressures” said George Nicholson, one of the leading campaigners of those times and still a local resident.

It was a period of huge empowerment for local residents. Campaigns, protests and direct action were the tools to force local authorities and developers to recognise the communities’ needs. Estate tenants formed associations to negotiate with their landlords and community groups flourished. There were great successes like at Coin Street with new housing, the Colombo Street Sports Centre and the saving of important facilities like chemists, post offices and launderettes.

The exhibition is presented by “SE1 Stories”, an umbrella group of people who were active in the campaigns in the 1970s and 80s. The group came together in 2019 when thousands of photographs were discovered in the archives of Southwark and Lambeth councils. Many were taken by members of the group for SE1 Newspaper, a monthly paper produced by and for the local community. Many more come from the innovative Blackfriars Photography Project that gave people the equipment and skills to be photographers.

The exhibition focuses on the area around Blackfriars Road as part of Southwark Council’s Blackfriars Stories initiative. SE1 Stories plans to present more exhibitions to highlight the rich stories of community action in Waterloo, North Southwark and Bermondsey.

Blackfriars SE1 in the 1970s. Community action in a London neighbourhood
29 October 2021 - 11 November
Blackfriars Settlement, 1 Rushworth Street, London, SE1 0RB
The exhibition will travel to other local venues including Morley College, 61 Westminster Bridge Rd, London SE1 7HT

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