London communities were in the spotlight last week.
BBC 2 has been running The Street History of our Streets. Meanwhile, Radio 4's Today programme has been reporting on youth gangs.
I discovered The Secret History of our Streets via Jock Coats's blog.
Last week, the programme told us the history of streets in Deptford and Clerkenwell. This week it will look at the Caledonian Road.
The story of Deptford wasn't an isolated incident. Town planners decided how people should be living. They designed new estates that they considered better than the houses that were owned by the not so well off working class. To move the residents out, they had the houses designated as slums. Deptford had a thriving community. Families lived together or nearby. They worked locally and some owned businesses. The businesses offered value for money services at prices people who lived in the area could afford. Children played in the streets and adults kept an eye on them.
As the compulsory purchase orders rolled in, people had no choice but to move and communities were torn apart as wealth was destroyed. The houses that survived are now worth over a million. Those working class people who were forced out would now be well-off and still serving the community they lived in.
Deptford, like so many other communities, has been broken. As the residents who had roots in the area left, people without a support network were moved in to the new council estates. It is not that these new residents were incapable of forming a community. It is that the new model living worked deliberately against it.
One of the outcomes has been the rise of youth gangs.
The town planners wanted to make things better. The problem was that they defined what better was: it entailed reshaping how people lived and behaved.
Thankfully, their well-intentioned plan hasn't quite worked.
The sense of responsibility and community continues because it is part of human nature. That is why communities developed in the first place.
If one wants an example of someone taking responsibility for a problem, a problem they didn't cause, and offering a solution without the help of the State it was given on Wednesday morning on the Today Programme. The story of Mimi Asher and her work decommissioning a youth gang is extraordinary and heart-rending.