Social & Cultural Survey of Shoreditch & Hoxton

29 sep 2009

New Report Provides Unique Insight into one of London’s most Vibrant Neighbourhoods

A new report paints a candid portrait of the Hoxton and Shoreditch area of East London, and celebrates all that is local providing an invaluable resource for the community and potential new development.

The Shoreditch & Hoxton Social & Cultural Survey was commissioned by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation following its own recent move to the area. Written and researched by General Public Agency, the report discusses the area’s distinctive character and identity, and includes interviews with many residents and key players in the community.

“Our move to Hoxton is a sign of our intent to engage with the rich fabric of UK life,” says Andrew Barnett, Director of the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK Branch. “Our work needs to be grounded in the real life experience of individuals and communities and, as this social and cultural survey graphically demonstrates, there are few better places to do this than in the Hoxton/Shoreditch area which lies at the heart of a good deal of the capital’s social, cultural and educational activity.”

Illustrated by young local artist, George Edge (aged 14), the survey explores the identity of the neighbourhood from the perspective of residents, workers and others active in the area such as developers and landlords. Perhaps because of their city fringe status, many in Hoxton and Shoreditch define themselves as being at the cutting edge and celebrate the area’s unique spirit and community.

“General Public Agency’s Social & Cultural Surveys provide detailed and sensitive portraits of different neighbourhoods,” explains Lucy Musgrave, Director, General Public Agency. “These form a new approach to urban research that can support the work of funders, developers, architects, planners and policy makers, making them more responsive to existing neighbourhoods’ strengths and values. As communities, government, the private and the third sector grapple with the implications of the Climate Change Bill and the Sustainable Communities Bill, a detailed understanding of the “local” is an essential first step to helping communities help themselves.”

Sandra, local resident, puts the success of the area today down to the Hoxton spirit: “It’s like people have discovered us, we’ve been here for ages… it’s like people have seen it and want to be a part of it – which is great – I think it’s the spirit – the place has got spirit, not sure why, but it’s here and it never leaves you.”

The survey discusses the history of the area as a place that accommodates changes, with the rise and fall of the furniture, clothing and printing trades, the influx of new immigrant communities, and the growth of the art scene. The report also looks at the pros and cons of recent rapid changes such as the surge in both day-time creative businesses and the night-time entertainment economy, now valued at £9.5 million.

“There has long been a notable disparity between the incoming culture and economies and the existing residential communities, particularly those located north of Hoxton Square,” says the survey. Father Paul, Augustinian and Parish Priest adds: “It strikes me that there are two Hoxtons, the Hoxton south of the square, and the Hoxton behind the church, the real Hoxton.”

Sheridan, owner, the SCP furniture showroom, embraces the healthy fragmentation of the area and praises Hackney for changing the planning laws to live-work. He says: “It still has a good mix of design studios and creative people, and is still at the bottom of the commercial market – it’s cheaper than Clerkenwell, so it will always attract newer, younger people.”

In recent years local organisations such as the Shoreditch Trust and the Shoreditch Property Company have sought to channel the changes brought by recent gentrification to benefit the local communities. This includes the provision of affordable workshops and studios, and proposals for a new cinema in the area. In 2005 The London borough of Hackney changed its licensing policy to control and limit the growth of night-time economy activities which have aggravated crime, noise pollution and environmental degradation.

“The Shoreditch community has always been in a state of flux,” says the survey, “but there is a real need to balance the requirements of the night-time economy and entertainment industries with those of residents and other local stakeholders…With more new developments planned, and the expansion of the City thrusting northwards, the need to consider all the communities within Shoreditch seems ever more important.”
The report was commissioned by the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation UK Branch as a portrait of this special area of London. The Foundation will use it as resource to guide future partnerships and projects including a number of schemes planned for the neighbourhood. Its findings will be disseminated at a symposium in Spring 2010 and the report will also be distributed locally.

Notes to editors

The Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation’s purpose in the UK and Ireland is to help enrich and connect the experiences of individuals and secure lasting and beneficial change. The Foundation was established in Lisbon in 1956. The UK Branch, based in London, has for more than 50 years initiated and supported pioneering social, cultural and educational developments.

Social & Cultural Survey Hoxton & Shoreditch (ISBN 978-0-9563668) was written by General Public Agency in association with the Development Trusts Association and the Shoreditch Trust, and published by The General Public Research Unit.

The General Public Research Unit works in urban and rural regeneration. It provides intelligence through research, strategy and visioning services for public, private and third sector clients. The Development Trusts Association is the leading network of community enterprise practitioners dedicated to helping set up development trusts and sharing best practice. Shoreditch Trust is a charitable regeneration agency delivering long-term social, economic and environmental programmes focused on Shoreditch.

The report defines the survey area as falling mostly within the wards of Haggerston and Hoxton in the borough of Hackney, one of the most deprived areas in England.

Hoxton and Shoreditch has one of the highest concentrations in the UK of third sector organisations such as charities, social enterprises, voluntary groups and housing associations, according to the report. Organisations include the NSPCC, Breast Cancer Campaign, Transport 2000, The Free Tibet Campaign, Afghan Aid, Amnesty International, Womankind Worldwide and the Prince’s Foundation for the Built Environment. These represent not only the sheer number of organisations and bodies, but also the great diversity of issues from particular local services to national and international campaigns.

The survey reveals some salient statistics: despite being so close to the wealth of the City of London, the area’s residents have high concentrations of semi and unskilled manual workers (Grade D), lowest grade workers (Grade E), unemployed and benefit claimants. Together these make up 45% of the Hoxton and Haggerston population. Unemployment is double the national average. Recorded illness and poor health is 40% higher than the national average and 82% live in social housing. Fifty-two percent of primary school children in Hackney have English as their second language.

Further information
To request a copy of the book or for more information, please contact: Dominique Owen at Caro Communications on 020 7336 8488 or [email protected]

For a copy of the report or more information about the Calouste Gulbenkian Foundation please contact [email protected]

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