New venue for ‘Blackfriars SE1 in the 1970s’

    • On the move to Morley College

      The exhibition ‘Blackfriars SE1 in the 1970s – community action in a London neighbourhood’ is opening at a new location from Tuesday 16th November. The Barry Till Gallery at Morley College, 61 Westminster Bridge Road SE1 7HT, will host it until the Christmas break (20th December). Free entry.

      The venue is open 9am to 8pm weekdays, 9am to 4pm Saturday. Nearest underground station Lambeth North, also close to Waterloo mainline services.

      People find their voice

      ‘Blackfriars SE1 in the 1970s’ highlights an extraordinary period of community action in the 1970s and 1980s in Blackfriars, North Southwark and Waterloo 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.

      It was a period of huge empowerment for local residents. Campaigns, protests and direct action were the tools to make local authorities and developers recognise the communities’ needs. Estate tenants formed associations to negotiate with their landlords and community groups flourished. This community action tackled a multitude of issues including poor housing, redevelopment pressures, lack of shops and open space. Both SE1 Community Newspaper and Blackfriars Photography Project helped local people find their voice.

      There were great successes like at Coin Street with new housing, Colombo Street Sports and Community Centre and the saving of important facilities such as chemists, post offices and launderettes.

      Rich source of photographic reporting

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

      The focus for this display is the area around Blackfriars Road, part of Southwark Council’s Blackfriars Stories initiative. For more information on the exhibition, see the Blackfriars SE1 in the 1970s web page.

      The space at Morley College has given the opportunity to add some large format images to the display.

      Header photo by Nick Jeffrey: Mick MacNamee, chairman of Redcross Way Buildings Tenants Association, on site when the tenement buildings were being demolished in 1973. The site is now home to St. Saviour’s Primary School.


SE1 Stories – a record of community struggles

Telling the story of 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 developers eyed up land for office development, leaving isolated communities struggling to maintain their way of life, coping with run-down housing and threats to facilities such as chemists and laundrettes. Very much the same pressures are re-emerging now – and there is the same need for community action.

Photography

Intrepid photographers captured a lot of the activity, which was then published in SE1’s own community newspaper. Many of the photographs are now held in private and public collections, particularly council local history archives, perhaps you know of others hidden elsewhere.

The first project based on this material is the exhibition Blackfriars SE1 in the 1970s.

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