The Imagine…Hillfields Exhibition is at the Herbert Museum, next to the People of India exhibition, until later in 2014.
Imagine is a collaborative research project between universities and community organisations. Its interest is in the cultural, historical, social and democratic ways in which communities develop. Our work on this in the Sociology Department at Warwick University is historical and is concerned with imagining the future from different points in the past to see how communities have changed. Changing communities begins with people appraising the past and imagining the future. Questions we might ask include: what is imagined for the future of an area; who does this imagining; how is imagination actualised in a community; and what set of relations govern whether one person’s imagination is more potent than another’s.
In Coventry we are studying Hillfields. This is because of its long history of redevelopment, regeneration and community development and its role as the ‘gateway’ into the city by waves of migrants from Ireland and the Caribbean in the 1950s, to Eastern Europe and Africa more recently. In 1970 it was one of the first localities in the UK identified for what we would now understand as regeneration: Hillfields was chosen as an area of deprivation amidst a city of prosperity. The government wanted to harness the energies of local people to improve the area. Subsequently it has been regenerated repeatedly against a background of political, social and economic change. The most recent regeneration occurred with demolition of some of the tower blocks and the subsequent development of City College and the Sidney Stringer Academy around Primrose Hill Street as part of the Swanswell Initiative. Now Hillfields is, again, changing…
Photographs play an important part in recording the history of an area – not just the buildings but also the people and what they do. In areas that have been re-imagined so many times, capturing life in a visual way will help future generations understand the complexity of the past. It will also help us understand the present and begin discussions on what it takes to shape the future. This is what we asked community photographers to capture…what, right now, will show the people of the future, Hillfields?
Click here to see the images.
Click here to listen to interviews with the community photographers.
A few acknowledgements of appreciation are necessary for Mick Dabrowski, Bob Nolan and Jason Tilley and the photographers Shai, Sharda, Abdul, Asha and Kate. Thank you for your thinking, effort and perseverance.