Counterculture worked with South London architects Okra to develop plans for the refurbishment of a disused bus shelter into a community cafe and creative space for residents of Pollards Hill. Funded by Merton Borough Council and the GLA, the aim for the refurbishment was to help support better health and wellbeing in the area, provide skills opportunities for young people, and bridge intergenerational divides.
Following a phase of community and stakeholder consultation, Counterculture and Okra devised a three-week programme of pop-up engagement activities and events over summer 2021, aiming to build local support and gauge views, as well as test various uses and potential operators of the space. The activity programme was opened with a free outdoor cinema event, projecting the classic film ‘ET’ onto a large screen in the park for families to enjoy. Taking place inside a bespoke temporary pavilion extension to the bus shelter, the other events included drop-in boxing classes, arts and crafts for all ages, Caribbean food tasting, health MOTs, bike repair workshops, and careers advice mentoring.
All of the events were developed in collaboration with local activity teachers and small businesses to encourage a circular economy for the future refurbished space. The activities were promoted through a bespoke website, extensive local flyering and posters, and through the network built during public and stakeholder consultation. Public response and attendance was very positive, with people of all ages taking part and many requests for events and activities to be repeated. The responses from these activities at ‘Pollards Pop-Up!’ formed the backbone of the business plan Counterculture then created for the space. This business plan, which sets out how the space could become a permanent site for activities and a café, is now being used by the Council to progress funding applications, in the hope that construction might begin in 2023.
We are delighted that our community engagement work around Pollards Pop-Up! was shortlisted for a 2022 Architectural Journal ‘Small Projects Award’, which celebrates achievements in the design and consultation process.