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Ashes to assets – what change is needed in Tottenham? 

“Never doubt that a small group of thoughtful, committed, citizens can change the world. Indeed, it is the only thing that ever has.” (Anthropologist, Margaret Mead.)

On a Thursday in October 2012, there were about 30 young people trying to prove this point. We had been commissioned by Arup, consultants on the regeneration project, to find out what locals think.

The change we are trying to make is actually just for Tottenham. However, this is MY world, MY High Road, MY home. This is where my day begins and ends. Tottenham has been the place that represents life for me, writes Fiona Namale, a Dandelion Project journalist working on a paid commission for Arup and the Useful Simple company last year. 

Like every community, there are things people want to change and things they feel can be adjusted. Dandelion has participated in a few other projects yet this one stands out.

Design consultants Arup invited us to be involved in investment decisions that will hopefully benefit many. We joined with young people from Northumberland Park Community School and Homes for Haringey’s Project 20:20.

The brief was to look at the assets in the North Tottenham area, through interviewing local residents and shop owners, taking photographs and creating stories. These findings were later presented to the Mayor’s Office, in mid November.

The first Thursday brought along a lot of youth who either live or study in Tottenham, so I arrived at 639b to a full room of like-minded people. There were maps of the area laid out on the tables. We put stickers on the places we love and comments on post-it notes.

We concluded there are too many gambling stores and chicken and chip shops, and not enough youth clubs, among other things.

We debated the unappealing area around Northumberland station, and an outdoor gym in the area that is hardly ever used.

We also discovered a lot of new things about Tottenham. Did you know that of the six Coca-Cola manufacturers in the UK, one is in our industrial zone? Also, as one of the UK’s most diverse communities, did you know we speak 230 different languages in Haringey?

After this, there was an open discussion. Of all the 14-16 year olds present, not one could say that Tottenham is where they would like to see themselves in future. That alone speaks volumes. So all the talent within our local community leaves and develops their skills elsewhere.

If we could provide the right facilities for people to learn more about what they’re interested in, there would be a lot more successful people staying in Tottenham.

The second session was very active, as our group of 30 split up and set out from 639 to do primary research on four different routes.

My group interviewed various members of the community including the owner of Roy’s Launderette, and a group of men outside the Tottenham Community Sports Centre, where stalls are often set-up in the week.

These men have been regularly using the facilities for 15 years, and in addition the Olympic Gold Medallist  Nicola Adams trained at the Boxing Academy next door. Yet we ourselves found the atmosphere quite uninviting and the building’s appearance unattractive. This seems such a waste.

Another hidden asset behind the houses of Park Lane is the Somerford Adventure Playground. This was designed by local people, and for that reason particularly it is well-supported as a place for children and teens to go where they can feel safe.

The opportunity to make a difference in my community is something I am truly thankful for. I have lived here my whole life and having a chance to have an input into what changes are made was amazing.

Meeting with other locals also helped me to fully appreciate what our community already has.


639: where Tottenham means business – the background to the new enterprise zone

639 High Road has undergone a serious makeover. The whopping 34,000 square foot of unused space is being transformed into a centre for all things business and employability. Pop by to chat to our volunteers to learn more. 

The ‘Tottenham Living Room’ and its outdoor decking has been used since last summer  as an attractive  meeting place for various social enterprise and voluntary businesses needing work space. 

Inside 639, there’s going to be enterprise for everyone…

Are you considering employment but don’t know where to start?

We can offer alternatives to further education. With a team of mentors, you can explore the possibilities of self-employment. We also have an excellent volunteering programme, so whether you’re 16 or 60, you can gain new skills, work experience and the chance to be part of a growing business community.

Starting a business but want help?

We can give you that and more: mentoring, business planning and access to a thriving community of networks… say hello to a more collaborative way of working. It’s called success.

Got a business but nowhere to run it?
Look no further. 639 will be  a newly-refurbished business-beehive of affordable units. With up to three years of subsidised rent, you can afford to expand. 
A brief history of 639

It is a grade 2 listed building built in 1860.

The building used to be the headquarters of the gas board. More recently it was owned by Haringey council and used as the planning department. It has been empty since that moved, which benefited some homeless who squatted in the building.

In August 2011 the building was badly damaged during the riots because people were angry about the building being empty for so long. London Youth Support Trust (LYST) saw this as an opportunity to use the building. 639 is a project run by LYST and supported by Dandelion Project.

For more info: email Rob Whitmore, or visit LYST:

Our young journalist volunteers are amongst those who have worked out of the ‘TLR’ and were asked to help report on developments on this sponsored page. 


Thank you to Ajay Chandrasekaram, Sultan Olateju, Karen Lundeya, Melissa Gardiner and Berdan Yilmaz for photographs and research.  These five Park View Academy students recently did work experience with Dandelion Project and interviewed members of the public and of LYST about the project.



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