And suddenly, with the quiet daintiness of a little nocturnal beetle finding its home in the middle of the jungle, or a nostalgic childhood memory of old ideas moving to the surface, a milk float from the 1950s appeared at the end of the road I was standing in, blowing away the last pieces of straw that had been left on the pavement. Behind me, Global Generation’s Urban Campsite sat still at the bottom of a shining building in Regent’s Place, Euston. The two rounded headlights felt like true beacons of enthusiasm and motivation in these first days back at work after 10 months of break. At the time, after months of maternity leave, working (and speaking English) seemed like things I had never done before.
Regent’s Place? A milk float? A bell tent? Straw bales? Are you going to take that on? Are you sure? I still remember some of my colleagues faces. Our founder, Jane, had offered me the opportunity to work in a new part of London, with the promise that there lived a wise witch, the head of campus, someone who believed in Global Generation.
After a few meetings, the Urban Campsite was installed. And a few minutes after the last paving slab was placed, a group of young people arrived from the local estates, guided by my new colleague Mariam. They were straight in the milk float seats, trying out the lights, the horn, the indicators. Then, straight into the tent. I explained what the space was for, and what we were hoping to do with it to them, knowing that its success depends on their contributions, creativity, and values, and that the reward is rarely instant.
Now, Regent’s Place is my new place. New people, new projects, new processes, new enquiries. But the core values stay the same. Last week I cooked for a group of visitors, and that really felt like going back to the core of what we do, where the origins have always helped me to find direction for the future. The wayfinder’s ethos has helped me to understand this - but instead of a canoe, I will be driving that milk float. It will be navigating around Euston in search of new islands. I am expecting big waves. Risk assessments, permits for deliveries, funding to be approved, more young people to recruit, and all the excitement, won’t make for calm seas.
So far we have hosted primary schools for design taster workshops with the milk float models, involved some very local young people in thinking about social action events, had many, many meetings, and finally, have started sanding down the milk float, so it can be painted and refurbished soon. It will be a flying garden and kitchen, and vehicle of social action. In a couple of weeks, we will be moving out of the campsite. Packing things up is part of our essence. We are nomadic. We move and adapt.
There are grey buildings around me as I write, around the loud Euston Road. Bayo Akomolafe, thinker and poet, says that it is important to hug monsters. I tried to avoid cold corporate buildings for a long time, instead staying in the Skip Garden to smell the herbs and listen to the bees. But now I am ready to hug this development site, and try to help nature and young people to flourish, and interact with this ‘monster’ too.
We have a kitchen, an office space, a toilet, and a dishwasher, which is much more than what was available to us when I first started as an intern for Global Generation. Hopefully. this will be the first step of another long journey. Young people will be my companions, alongside all the great human beings I have met so far at Regent’s Place.