Two EC1 residents are enlisting people interested in developing the idea of a Clerkenwell Commons – an environment for conversation, collaboration, and action. David Wilcox and Mike Franks first developed the idea in the mid1970s, and almost 50 years on, their vision was revived by The Peel’s initiative called Connecting Clerkenwell. The first result of their renewed collaboration is a set of online maps and photos, based on Mike’s 1977 Historic Trail, which 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.
“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,” says Mike. “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 Trail – at a time when Clerkenwell was an unknown, semi-derelict victim of planning blight and failed property speculation.” The 1977 Trail was a large poster with short descriptions of 27 places. It was followed up in 1998 by a major revision, that laid 90 pavement markers and 30 lamppost signs to direct people around the area. Proposals are underway to bring them back next year.
The pair then met 40 years on at the launch of The Peel’s Connecting Communities programme and their collaboration is now taking shape both in digital and public space. “The idea of Clerkenwell as a Commons has been part of my work since the beginning,” says Mike. “Projects exploring common ground have come and gone but two approaches are constant: that story-telling about past, present and future can bring T people together, and that convivial environments encourage people to talk to each other. We will use David’s digital networks for the stories and public space for the conversations.“
David has developed demonstration maps that show how the digital side of the Commons might develop. “The Peel provided me and collaborator Drew Mackie with funding to explore how mapping might support their programme – and I remembered the work done with Mike,” he says. “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: to do audio and video interviews and embed those in the maps and recruit local media professionals who can help people record and tell their stories in various ways. This way we can make the discovery trail a place for conversations in the street.”
David and Mike are hoping to organise some meetings to generate more ideas, and plan how to put these ideas into practice. If you’re interested email Mike (firstname.lastname@example.org), or David
(email@example.com) The Clerkenwell Commons site can be found at: clerkenwell.commons.london