Community action in a London neighbourhood

This exhibition tells 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 land was earmarked for office development leaving isolated communities struggling to maintain their way of life.

See our pre-exhibition news item for more background.

What is in the exhibition?

‘Blackfriars SE1 in the 1970s’ draws on thousands of photographs from SE1 Community Newspaper and Blackfriars Photography Project in Southwark and Lambeth Councils’ archives. It is focused around the important thoroughfare of Blackfriars Road, which has undergone a massive amount of change over the decades.

Topics covered include Campaigning, Community Centres and Action Groups, the many battles for good housing and facilities. Plus of course SE1 Community Newspaper (featuring the popular Golden Oldies series of articles) and Blackfriars Photography Project.

Basic map of area covered by exhibition
Basic map of the area. Copyright OpenStreetMap contributors

Mounted on specially built frames which subtly reflect key local buildings*, the panels of text, photos and other images are designed with a nod to how SE1 Community Newspaper was put together at the time. There will also be a selection of physical items from those days, such as reproduction copies of the paper *.

Images have been chosen and text written by “SE1 Stories”, an umbrella group of people active in the area at the time – see the About Us page. Most of the development work has had to be done while liaising over Zoom and email, so it is very gratifying to see the physical result come together in the end. We hope you get a chance to enjoy it!

* The display arrangements may differ slightly between venues to fit space restraints.

Finding your way to ‘Blackfriars SE1 in the 1970s’

We are still finding new venues for the exhibition! Current or upcoming places include:

The online version is available for a virtual visit at any time.

A walking tour around the locations highlighted in the exhibition has also been developed, using the PocketSights app. Download the app from App Store (Apple) or Google Play (Android) and search for ‘SE1’ to find the walk.

Find out more

The Exhibition booklet (2MB pdf) fills out the context to community action in the period and its relevance to today, plus some further reading.

A large number of people were involved in community action in the area. We have created a page featuring some of the significant figuresPeople make communities. Your further suggestions and contributions are welcome.

The Useful Links page rounds up websites, videos etc. which give more background and archive resources.

Members of SE1 Stories are available to share their experiences tackling community issues and how it relates to current concerns, through talks, discussions, etc. Please use the contact form to get in touch.

This exhibition covers just a small part of local community campaigning at the time. The sheer number of photographs which have ended up with both Lambeth and Southwark Archives, produced before the advent of easy options such as smartphones, illustrates the breadth of activity. SE1 Stories hopes to create more ways of bringing this material into the light.

Tell us more

Do you have memories of the topics and times covered by the exhibition? Have you perhaps got local photographs from the 1970s/80s, or know where more can be found? Did you enjoy visiting the exhibition? Your thoughts are welcome.

Previous showings

See a selection of photos of various venue set-ups.

2021

  • Blackfriars Settlement, 29th October to 11th November.
  • Morley College (Waterloo), 16th November to 20th December.

2022

  • gallery@oxo, Oxo Tower Wharf, South Bank, London, 5th to 16th January.
  • Coin Street Neighbourhood Centre, Stamford Street, 18th to 27th January.
  • Peckham Library, London, 23rd April to 12th May.
  • Canada Water Library, London, 14th May to 5th June.
  • Camberwell Library, London, 7th to 26th June.
  • Christ Church Southwark, 24th August to 11th September.
  • Blackfriars Settlement, 13th September to 3rd October.
  • St Johns Church, Waterloo Road, 4th to 23rd October.
  • London School of Architecture, N1, 24th October to 3rd November.

2023

  • UCL East’s Urban Room, Stratford, 20th January to 8th March.
  • Atrium, Southwark Council, Tooley Street, 14th to 30th March.
  • Tate Modern, Bankside, 10th/11th June.
  • Southwark Heritage Centre, Walworth Road, 1st August to 28th September.

2024

  • The Castle Centre, St Gabriel Walk, SE1, October 2023 to 6th February 2024.

To September 2023: 15 showings across 14 venues (9 in Southwark, 3 in Lambeth, 2 north of the river).

Credits

The Blackfriars SE1 in the 1970s exhibition, created by the SE1 Stories group, has been made possible with the support of:

This page’s header image: Puppets and performers promoting the play ‘People Live Here’. The play was initiated by the Blackfriars Community Action Team, about November 1974. Photo by Tony Phillips (Robertson-Jonas).