Living Geography keeps on living

Housing in Tower HamletsIn  a chapter called Where will young people live? for a book called Living Geography I aimed to ‘unsettle settlement’ with the assertion it risked being a tired geographical theme. Homes, we know about, don’t we?

It used a photograph of housing in Tower Hamlets, East London which I didn’t expect to be transformed. The image from 2007 (Figure 10.1) shows a tower block at the end of  a street with rows of maisonettes either side. It includes some trees but doesn’t really show the ground-level of the road itself and open-space. Well, the open space has now been built upon. (The yellow road sign appears in both photographs.) About twenty years after  the original community there has been a significant increase in density. It’s not this site alone: every spare corner in the neighbourhood has had a new building inserted. Housing is in demand even in the most densely occupied London borough. It supports the case for taking photographs of the local community and those locations studied.

Importantly, the chapter in Living Geography did not prescribe places to be studied. I advocate use of real locations for decision-making activities. It is supported by a ‘mystery’ activity developed by Alan Jeannes that his school used as part of fieldwork in the town of Ashford and village of High Halden. It provides a sequence of prompts to help a young couple to consider the pros and cons of living in either Ashford (town) or High Halden (village). It would be very easy to adapt to any pair of settlements with which students might be familiar.

By using specific and local circumstances changes over time can be an added element to the learning task.

While driving through High Halden over a few years I have noticed:

Nisa Local1. a former garage site become a kitchen-fitting store and then a showroom for a range of American police cars available for hire. This business disappeared and the building was demolished and the site now has planning permission for housing.

2. the village shop and post office closed and remained vacant for some time. It has now re-opened as a ‘Nisa Local’. During the Jubilee the side of the building acquired a Banksy. I don’t know if it is genuine but it now has perspex covers to protect it.

3. the Chequers pub on the main road closed. After extensive refurbishment is has re-opened as a gastro-pub by a company which has rescued similar rural pubs in the area.Banksy - children and flag

Living Geography is kept dynamic by a geographical eye and a few photographs.

Living Geography:
* embraces young people’s geographies
* is current and future oriented
* is local but set in wider (global) contexts
* understands natural and human processes
* raises questions of change, sustainability and development