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People Power

Made in Bermondsey – Towards a People-Powered Regeneration” – Click here to read the full report by Alex Evans. 


Recently, Big Local Works and Blue Bermondsey BID undertook some ground-breaking local research to inform our future work in the area. We wanted to look in detail at the shops, services, and infrastructure local people want, but also to dive deeper into factors local people care about, around culture, community and local identity. We wanted to know what mattered to people in the area, and what barriers there are to a thriving, more connected community and economy that meets the needs of its residents.


Below is a summary of the key findings:

1. Community and Identity

  • Sense of community

Bermondsey has strong, tightly-knit communities, yet the strength of these communities occasionally results in the exclusion of outsiders and limited inter-community collaboration. Many expressed a wish for increased interconnectivity and inclusivity between communities and greater openness.

  • Information and opportunity

Bermondsey has a wealth of community assets, but there’s a lack of awareness about these resources among many residents. Individuals sometimes describe a need for local support or activities, while unaware of existing opportunities and support.

  • What people want from regeneration

Many local residents are hopeful about ongoing area developments but feel excluded from the developer-led regeneration process that ignores them. Having their voices heard in the regeneration decisions is vital to them – but even more so, they want to know there are real opportunities to participate and benefit from changes.

  • Local identity and history

Many Bermondsey residents possess a deep sense of local identity rooted in the area’s history. But some of these historical narratives crowd out more diverse experiences. Some reputational issues for the area regarding its history of intolerance persist, despite some people’s wish to move on. Recognising a broader range of hopeful stories and experiences could help make the area more inclusive and welcoming.


2. The Economy

  • Making the most of opportunities

Despite a history of economic decline, people want to see the area thrive again. Residents see potential in new developments but stress the need for businesses to adapt to changes, and to find what makes them and the area unique.

  • Finding our purpose

For many, the area should serve as a communal gathering spot, emphasising unique experiences over standard shopping outlets. While essential services are vital, residents want more intimate and community-centric offerings.

  • ‘Nicer’ not gentrified

Residents are open to upscale establishments as long as they remain inclusive, but they’re wary of factors like housing changes that could push out existing community members. The emphasis is on balancing accessibility with improvement.

  • Routes into participation

The “Blue” area is viewed as a potential hub for local economic participation at all levels, including for micro-traders and entrepreneurs.

  • The Blue: for who?

Finally, there were some concerns raised about the idea of the Blue becoming a place seen as being set up primarily for outside, touristic customers – as some other local ‘attractions’ have become. But without outside business, can the economy thrive again?


3. Our strategic priorities

As a result of this work, we developed the idea of a ‘People-Powered Regeneration.’ Our priorities are:

1. A Thriving Economy

We want to foster a thriving sustainable local economy, to meet local needs, and to help provide easier access to new economic opportunities.

  • Supporting Local Businesses As new and existing residents bring fresh demands, we’ll encourage and support local businesses to respond to these needs.
  • Curating and shaping a business place that meets local needs and desires – We want to stimulate and support the kind of business that people want and help resist inappropriate and uncoordinated decisions by planners and landlords. We want the area to have the kind of businesses and developments that benefit everyone.
  • Fostering Enterprise and Creativity – We want to create opportunities for residents to participate meaningfully in the new economy. For example, offering ways to trade in the market or be creative in shared spaces

What we’ve done so far….

• Developed and delivered Enterprise and start-up training and support for the new Blue Market
• Secured the lease for the Blue Market to be run directly by the local community – thereby avoiding its transfer to outside contractors focused only on their own profit
• Supported 50+ small businesses to trade at the market
• Developed a new easy-start package to ensure everybody locally has a chance to access a stall with low risk and set up cost
• Provided help with marketing and social media, training on finance and a range of other business skills
• Helped aspiring entrepreneurs access Southwark Council’s Pioneers Fund
• Developed the ‘Made in Bermondsey’ Barrow Market stall – a pop-up stall to provide additional exposure for existing local businesses, and to allow them to test and trade at the heart of Bermondsey
• Developed extensive employment/ employability work to support local people to access the job market through a range of employment projects, including special support for young people

• Developed major capital projects, bringing in C. £3m in capital investment for local businesses and residents
• Redeveloped the Blue Market with a £2m grant from the GLA
• Provided affordable workshop/ meeting and workspace at Big Local Works
• Supported development and aided consultation for other new capital projects – providing challenges where necessary

What’s next?

• Continuing to work on developing new creative enterprise spaces
• Further development of the Blue Market and its facilities
• Developing partnership programmes to support the development of local skills suitable for future jobs and employment opportunities in the area.

2. Connected Communities

We want to build a strong, integrated, tolerant, and diverse community where everybody is welcome

  • Encouraging collaboration We want to foster collaboration between local communities, helping them work collectively to tackle common issues, and promoting shared activities that benefit the wider area.
  • Promoting community leadership – We need to help support existing local leaders and create new local leaders, especially from minority backgrounds, empowering them to make their own projects happen.
  • Confronting remaining intolerance – We want to support the development of projects and initiatives tackling remaining racism and intolerance head-on, making Blue Bermondsey welcoming to all.

What we’ve done so far…

  • Attracted thousands of new visitors to the area with a wide range of community events, activities, and celebrations
  • Developed new cultural events and markets for traders from all parts of our community and increased the diversity of traders – for example, our Latin American fairs providing space to traders displaced from the Elephant and Castle by development
  • Undertook in-depth research on people’s lived experience of living in South Bermondsey, focusing on culture, identity, and community, to form our new strategy for the area and inform stakeholders about local views

What’s next?

  • A major community involvement and organising project, helping local active citizens develop their own projects in partnership
  • Community organiser, outreach and community development workers to help increase cross-community working in the area
  • More diverse events and activities to make the area livelier than ever

3. Better Communication

We want to use communications to help people get the best out of Blue Bermondsey – and to help tell stories that reflect a complex past and a vibrant future.

  • Revising and re-telling Bermondsey’s Narratives – We’ll focus on promoting previously untold stories from diverse backgrounds and broadening our understanding of local history while remaining inclusive of existing positive narratives. Our aim is to honour Bermondsey’s roots while fostering an inclusive, dynamic future.
  • Improving information and communications – Keeping residents informed about local developments is crucial. Utilizing newsletters, local press, social media, and face-to-face conversations, we can keep everyone updated and involved.

What we’ve done so far…

  • Developed an impactful marketing and communication strategy that increased awareness of local businesses, projects and events, with signage, newsletters, and extensive advertising.
  • Promoted the area to the wider world, with a visit from the Mayor, and extensive press and coverage in national and local media
  • Developed the Out of the Blue: Unheard Voices, Untold Stories Historic England project highlighting Bermondsey’s multicultural working class history
  • Developed a broader range of cultural and community events telling a wider range of stories about Bermondsey

What’s next?

  • Developing new local sources of information online and in person, including regularly updated community information and better business communications
  • Developing more arts, cultural and heritage projects about the area’s unique history, with a special focus on its history as the ‘Larder of London’

If you would like more information about the People Powered Regeneration of South Bermondsey and the Made in Bermondsey project please contact luds@biglocalworks.org.uk or dralexevans@gmail.com