Creating Clerkenwell Commons

Draft article for EC1 Echo November 2019. See also Development page

Two EC1 residents are enlisting others interested in developing the idea of a Clerkenwell Commons - an environment for conversation, collaboration and action.

The idea is a combination of work that started back in the mid 1970s, and the more recent Peel Institute programme of projects for Connecting Clerkenwell.

The first result of the collaboration between Mike Franks and David Wilcox is a set of online maps and photos, based on Mike’s 1977 Historic Trail. This will develop into a framework for the Commons.

Mike first met David in 1970 when he was an architect-planner on the GLC Covent Garden team and David was planning correspondent for the Evening Standard.

Mike explains how after almost 50 years, the ideas came together

“In 1975 I founded the award winning social enterprise known as the Clerkenwell Workshops and slowly we began taking an active interest in the wider neighbourhood. At that time, Clerkenwell was an unknown, semi-derelict, degraded victim of planning blight and failed property speculation – how different now.

“In 1977 David was instrumental in securing funding for my Trust from the Queen’s Silver Jubilee Celebration Committee.. The result was Clerkenwell’s first Historic. 40 years later we met at the launch of the Peel’s Connecting Communities programme and our collaboration - cyberspace and public space, Clerkenwell meets the City and local/global perspectives - is giving my Clerkenwell Commons programme a massive boost.

“The idea of Clerkenwell as a Commons has been part of my work since the beginning. Projects exploring common ground have come and gone but two approaches have remained constant: story-telling about past, present and future can bring people together and convivial environments encourage people to talk to each other. We will use David’s cyberspace open networks for the stories and my interim stewardship of public space for the conversations.“

David said:

“The Peel Institute provided me and Drew Mackie with funding to explore how mapping might support their programme - and I remembered the work done with Mike. It’s been great fun developing the first demonstration maps, including a Google Earth flyover created by my son Dan.

“We hope to work with London Metropolitan Archive and local historians to improve on our first efforts.

“We’ve also started to develop a lot more ideas: let’s do audio and video interviews and embed those in the maps ... recruit local media professionals who would help people record and tell their stories in various ways ... make the discovery trail a place for conversations in the street.”

The next steps are to organise some get-togethers to generate more ideas, and plan how to put them into practice. If you are interested email Mike or David, or drop Mike a note in at his house at 26 Clerkenwell Close EC1R 0AG.