Black Country Make: Building a digital factory on a 1960s estate

BCM gang hero copyBlack Country Make are a group of young adults living on the Heath Town estate in Wolverhampton. With the help of local architect Jeremy Monk-Hawksworth, they are turning the estate into a digital factory, making everything from films to houses. Operating out of disused shops, a closed-down youth club and former underground car park, they are transforming the heritage of the past using the tools of the future.

Here they explain the project in their own words:

The Heath Field Park area has 8,862 residents, with 3,600 living on the Heath Town estate. Over the past two years a masterplan has been developed by the council to deliver housing renewal. Its emphasis is to remove the central precinct and low rise blocks to accommodate a private developer-led approach to housing.

The masterplan declares its intentions clearly but we think that there is still capacity for it to be more inclusive.

jezandkennysmallWe have experienced long-term unemployment, poor access to skills development, homelessness and the care system, living without food and fuel and poor health, the closure of all youth and community services. The schools, pubs, sports halls and park have closed, shops and businesses have gone and areas ‘condemned’ and closed to access. Decades of neglect and recent cuts have contributed to our isolation and the impact on generations is evident but to be served seems to be our only option….or is it?

‘We are the young people of Heath Town who don’t “engage”,

are hard to reach and have no community pride – so “they” say.’

We’re not here to revolt but we’re wrong in assuming the masterplan will deliver all our wishes. It’s our intention to simply provide more choice and add diversity to what’s on offer, building resilience in communities so that they are fit to make their own life chances for generations to come.

The opportunity we recognise is all around us, but it’s not in buildings but in ‘us’ being part of the solution, to have the capacity to fulfil our potential, and with the right tools, knowledge and help. Maybe aim not to just widen the goals but to make them completely open.

We are the young people of Heath Town who don’t ‘engage’, are hard to reach and have no community pride – so ‘they’ say. We all have ideas that are as rich and diverse as the 36 nationalities represented on the estate, so this document is not only ‘us’ declaring a bit of what we do but more about who we are and a plan for… delivering on our own promises.

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