People’s Museum Somers Town: A Space for Us is a space to celebrate Somers Town’s ‘radical, reformers and rebels‘ histories, to record a change now, as well as to campaign and preserve local working class heritage.
The Museum is at 52 Phoenix Road, NW1 1ES, within the Ossulston Estate, a Grade 2 listed social housing.
A SPACE FOR US
It’s also a space for the community to meet and take part via our memory cafes, drop ins and youth collective. We welcome contributions to the collection and our research.
It’s a museum co-created with its communities.
Somers Town is changing rapidly. We have a role in documenting the changes happening in an area that feels at risk of extinction.
GILBERT BAYES ART IN EVERYDAY LIFE CAMPAIGN
We’ve been campaigning to retore St Pancras working class Gilbert Bayes heritage onto the estates it was intended for – more.
Who are we? A community-led collective who have produced 4 books and 2 films, 60 events with over 500 contributors on local histories, we are now consulted on matters such as the Cecil Rhodes House renaming project and ‘hard to reach’ groups. STS is led by local residents, has deep roots in the community and all leads have working class backgrounds:
Diana Foster, Director
Educator, artist, community activist, founded the Somers Town Museum, ran the Somers Town History Club, her passion for neglected histories began with her 2013 participatory film somerstownwishes, gathering oral histories in 2016, culminating in the interactive film Spirit! An experienced educator, ex-teacher with an MA in Education, she’d worked for over 20 years as a Learning Designer, leading online projects for Sussex University, Pearson, Canon. She brings digital education and design expertise to our work, such as designing online content for schools, the 4 publications, and the work experience for young people. She’s an incomer to Somers Town, having come over 30 years ago. She grew up on council estates.
Professor Esther Leslie, Academic Lead
Professor of Political Aesthetics at Birkbeck, University of London, in the School of Arts.
Esther is passionate about local radical histories, such as the communist Unity theatre and Pan Africanism. As an academic and Editor of our 4 publications, her work was key in developing narratives, such as for Histories of Migrations book, as well as devising de-colonising workshops for youth. Artist, reviewer of exhibitions, and author of books on topics as diverse as animation, milk, liquid crystals and screen devices, her work encompasses exhibitions such as at MIMA in Middlesbrough, and, recently, speaking on In Our Time, a BBC Radio 4 show on Walter Benjamin. Her local family roots take in potato market workers, and sellers of anarchist books to the International African Service Bureau in Somers Town.
Mercedez Mendy Community Engagement Officer
Mercedez joined us as a Placement on her History of Art MA at Birkbeck and is now a key member of the team, contributing to exhibition and event design. In 2021 she curated a project called Common People about Working Class/ Black identities for New Unity. She is passionate about representing all parts of the community in our work. She grew up locally in Camden of mixed race parentage.
A living memory project – preserving heritage and voice
The Somers Town Memory Project, documents the area in film and voice: this oral history work is ongoing in an area riven by change. The Spirit! film came from this work. We’ve also compiled 4 Spirit! publications, outdoor displays, ‘Pop Up Museums‘ including the 2019 British Library. In August 2020 we toured estates as part of a community co-design/ consultation for the Museum.
Have a look at all our projects.
Our roots are as a social club, holding talks, walks, photo and art competitions – events are always free to locals. We always contribute a show to the Somers Town Festival – START’s founder is a Director.
We have put on outdoor exhibitions, donated children’s activity books to food banks, uploaded online education for primary school for Edith Neville School; facilitated a week’s online Work Experience with 54 secondary school pupils in lockdown.
Our origins and ethos
Our origins are in the Somers Town History Club (STHC) set up in 2016 by seven locals: ‘Capturing Somers Town Stories… by locals for locals…’
This is our guiding spirit – we believe in local ownership of the Museum
We’re the only entirely resident-led activist community organisation in Somers Town. We have drawn together a wide diverse network of experts, academics, historians to support this.
We believe in grounds up initiative- that’s why we’re currently co-curating the Museum with the community.
Somers Town Space Community Interest Company is a community-led social enterprise set up in 2019 to benefit our area and community through education and arts.
Our Research Board includes Malcolm Holmes, Professor Linda Clarke, Charles Wenz, and Joe Kerr. Our Advisory Group includes Peter Lush of Training Link, Emma Killick and Cllr Samata Khatoon.
We are in process of recruiting a Community Steering Group and a Youth Collective.
Core committee Members
- Diana Foster – Director
- Stephen Denholm – Director
- Esther Leslie – Academic Lead (Birkbeck, University of London)
- Mae Slevin (Treasurer)
- Alan Stephens (TA Origin)
- Brendan McLoughlin
- Siobhan Bradshaw
- Steve McCarthy (guide)
- Flurry Wright
Councillor Roger Robinson added his support in 2016 as a patron:
“I am very grateful as one of the councillors for St Pancras & Somers Town for the establishment of the Somers Town History Club. Those of us who either live in Somers Town or work there know of some of the history of the area but there is so much more to know and appreciate. The History Club will be a great venue for all to meet and hear about our beloved history especially as we are still working towards setting up a Somers Town Heritage Centre/Museum. I want to warmly thank Diana Foster for setting up the Club. See you there?”
We have been supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund, Lottery Funds, Culture Seeds, Camden Giving, The Francis Crick Institute and START (Somers Town Arts), Origin, The Gilbert Bayes Trust, Somers Town Big Local, CIL Fund
Cllr. Roger Robinson, Cllr Paul Tomlinson and Cllr Samata Khatoon
And many others who donated for our publications!