Tomorrow is Built Today

Lewisham’s Black-led community self-build movement

Tomorrow is Built Today 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.

Project lead, original self-builder and community-led regeneration consultant, Tim Oshodi, shared his skills and experiences, and those of other self-builders, to inspire Lewisham’s younger generation with the risks and rewards of using collective action to meet individual needs.

To tell this story, the project gathered memories and archival materials, produced a documentary film, and hosted an immersive exhibition in a self-build home on Nubia Way.

Background

Image: Brockley Park / Lowther Hill Site

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.

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 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.

Image: Chinbrook Meadows site

Watch this 90s camcorder film documenting the challenges and experiences of the self-builders.

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 The Chinbrook build was women-led and integrated the naturalisation of the River Quaggy.

The schemes also led to the creation of the Downham Community Land Trust that continues to contribute to the wider re-generation of the neighbourhood including the restoration of a local woodland.

Today, the self-builds’ thriving mixed heritage community across their three schemes is a testament to the legacy of Black-led community self-build for rent.

Image: Nubia Way site

Project

In September 2022, Tim opened his home in Nubia Way to the public as part of Open House London, creating an immersive experience to exhibit what is achievable when collective action delivers individual needs.

Outside, Tim curated a series of exhibition boards, giving a platform for fellow self-builders to tell their stories and explain the current challenges surrounding self-builds.

Visit the digital archive to read the personal experiences of the self-builders

A self-build development in Lewisham

Image: Nubia Way shortly after completion in 1997 (Andre Howard)

Also on display was a film, created and filmed by Tim, featuring interviews with self-builders about the challenges and rewards of building eco-friendly homes.

The film was later screened at Goldsmiths to a public audience followed by an informal Q&A with original self-builders that inspired a conversation around alternative forms of home ownership.

Visit the Virtual Museum space to explore the wealth of content gathered and created for the project and discover how the tomorrow we seek can be built today!

Project team

  • Tim Oshodi, Community-led Regeneration Consultant