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HABITORIALS: HOW AN INNOVATIVE COMMUNITY ENGAGEMENT PROGRAMME HAS SHAPED A NEW COMMUNITY - BY ANDREW CARRINGTON

05 December 2016

 At Countryside, our work goes far beyond simply building outstanding new homes. We strongly believe in creating places of character and quality and encouraging neighbourhoods to thrive. We have always championed new ways to achieve this such as Habitorials.

The idea of turning a show home into an ‘art form’ to build a sense of community and create future community projects at our Great Kneighton development in Trumpington, Cambridge was a very interesting concept. The show home provided an exclusive space for residents to use for community engagement and social activity, and has helped pave the foundations for a strong community.

Habitorials: A Showground Of Real Living was a three year public art project that offered residents the opportunity to reflect, imagine and build the future of their community. The project started in 2014 and consisted of three stages: research and development, the introduction of a magazine, and a series of community events held on site.

After thorough research, the end of 2014 saw the introduction of the Habitorials - A Showground Of Real Living magazine. The magazine included a collection of stories offering a glimpse into Trumpington life during a pivotal moment in the area’s development. The magazine marked the start of a year-long programme of event hosting, led by artists Jeanne Van Heeswijk and Britt Jurgensen.

The artists moved into a show home at Abode, Great Kneighton in 2015, and lived there part-time for a year, experiencing the expanding urban development in Trumpington from a resident’s perspective. They got to know the area and other residents by hosting a series of neighbourhood gatherings, big and small, that responded to some of the issues and changes that they saw around them. Throughout the year they transformed the show home to host a range of events. This included a Showground Library and Real Living Café.

After several months the show home had truly transformed into a house where the public could gather. The summer gave rise to several outdoor activities in the show garden, prompted by the arrival of chickens, as well as various gardening activities in which the residents could share their love for nature and pass on their skills to each other. Over time, community champions started to emerge and the Artists were able to take a step back. Local residents, played the ‘Resident in Residence’ role, hosting regular clubs and events for and on behalf of the community.  These included an outdoor community feast and a pop-up pub!

Habitorials: A Showground Of Real Living has been a great success and has created a vital platform for a strong, integrated community. The project is now inviting residents to take part in developing the large community gardens at Great Kneighton. The show home continues its transformation into a hybrid domestic public space and Countryside will keep the space open for public use for another 6-9 months, leading up to the opening of the new community centre in 2017.

For more information about Habitorials, please visit: http://www.habitorials.org.uk/ and to view a short film showing some of the highlights of the Habitorials programme visit our videos.

Andrew Carrington,

Managing Director - Strategic Land

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