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make a village of a city

Talking to people to find out what they think is important. It is where listening begins and learning takes place.

Our Engagement Manager, Aisha Hannibal, talks about an innovative film project in East London that prompts us to explore how we can ask the right questions. 

Have you ever started telling a joke and all you can remember is the punch line? Sometimes it feels like that in Living Streets.


We know the answer is walking but what is the question?  
two black women walk past some ebikes in East London

In my role supporting our network of Local Groups and those that want to start one I hear so many inspiring stories about what led them to the same answer: walking.  

Whether it is concerns about climate change, air pollution, road safety or congestion their work as campaigners in a Local Group is to find ways to promote walking as both the means and the end.  

This might be by working in partnerships with local schools to create walking routes or school streets. It could be reclaiming space provided for car storage such as parklets or advocating for clean accessible pavements for wheeling, scooting and walking.  


For any new idea to work I think you need to get a collective of people together to sit down at the (metaphorical) table like businesses, residents, neighbourhood groups, local authorities, health professionals and countless others to create a broad spectrum of support and lived experiences to input to make walking simpler, safer, and healthier.  

Outside of my work with Living Streets I have been involved with a digital arts organisation Frames of Mind. Their most recent project called Counter Culture features interviews with people from three corner shops in Newham, London. Until hearing the stories that unfold I hadn’t considered how communities intersect in local businesses and how valuable they are.  

Libraries, places of worship, schools and community spaces may be where we immediately think to engage with local residents but it is the places where we nip for a packet of biscuits which provides the conversations about what we need and what will make the difference.  

As part of Newham Heritage Month Bo Chapman and Zoe Flynn of Frames of Mind say: 

‘Corner shops are ubiquitous, everyone living in an urban environment has a relationship with a corner shop.  They are a convenient way to buy daily basics and emergency items, but they also provide a social hub and community focus.  They make a village of a city.’ 

people standing outside a shop

Photo: Sylvie Belbouab

In the film I have shared in this blog post (see above), local shop owner, Fatih, discusses the Low Traffic Neighbourhood scheme introduced outside his premises, along with some of the fears it raised and the impact locally.  

We know that the answer is walking but there are many road traffic calming measures, many approaches to reducing rat running, and many ways to create accessible and attractive places to walk, commute and play. 

Like the chicken, we all want to get to the other side but we also know that talking to people, especially those who feel at the margins, is the route. 

Essentially when communities come together a coalition of purpose is created to find ways to address car dominance, narrow pavements and personal safety issues.  

We have Local Groups doing just this, with humility and equity such as Uplands (Swansea), Portsmouth and Croydon and Haringey, London, to name a few. 

Just like the work of Frames of Mind I am keen to see how film can create a way to feel like we are all at the table, cups in hand with an eye on the biscuits. The conversation is worth having and what better place to start than your local corner shop.  

To find out how you can start conversations locally about walking then start or join your Local Group.

About the author

Aisha Hannibal

Engagement Manager, Living Streets

[email protected]