Tomorrow is Built Today

Lewisham’s Black-led community self-build movement

A self-build development in Lewisham
Image: Nubia Way shortly after completion in 1997 (Andre Howard)

This project celebrates the untold story of Lewisham’s pioneering Black-led self-build movement told through the memories of those who overcame institutional barriers and racist arson attacks to create award winning eco-homes across the borough.

Original self-builder and exhibition curator, Tim Oshodi, aims to inspire Lewisham’s younger generation by sharing his skills and experiences, and those of other self-builders, alongside the risks and rewards of using collective action to meet individual needs.

Background

In the mid-90s, a co-operative of African and Caribbean Londoners named Fusions Jameen formed for the purpose of developing a radical housing solution. Instead of renting from the council, the cooperative worked with a housing association to build the homes themselves.

The builders learned everything from carpentry to plumbing and electrics, forming a close-knit community in the process. During construction, one member of the co-op volunteered each night to guard the site.

This gave the builders a stake in the properties paid not with cash but with labour and secured a rent level of 30% below other affordable housing.

The scheme provided practical experience for over 80 NVQ trainees and a legacy of 36 award winning eco-homes in Honor Oak, Nubia Way and Chinbrook Meadows. It also led to the creation of the Downham Community Land Trust that contributes to the wider re-generation of the neighbourhood.

The self-builds’ thriving mixed heritage community is a testament to the legacy of Black-led community self-build for rent.

Project

This project will collect the oral histories of those involved in the Black-led self-build movement that will be used, alongside photographs, a new documentary and authentic building materials, to create a mobile exhibition that will tour the borough in the autumn.

In September, local people will be invited to visit one of the homes in Nubia Way as part of open house London, offering an immersive understanding of the process of self-building.

Discover your role in helping the next generation meet their housing challenges, and remember, ‘Tomorrow is Built Today.’

How can we empower the next generation to build upon the legacy of Lewisham’s pioneering Black-led community self-build schemes?

Project team

  • Tim Oshodi, Community-led Regeneration Consultant