In 1971, construction of the Westway Flyover dislocated thousands of North Kensington residents. It also created a 200m stretch of canalside that is uniquely sheltered from the rain. “Building Dialogues” is a weekend celebration of the potential of that space and an opportunity to learn ongoing City of Westminster canalside developments:
- “Westbourne Green Canalside” at Mary Magdalene Church will improve access and visibility and resolve conflicts between cyclists and pedestrians in the Little Venice area.
- “Queens Park Canalside” on Harrow Road will create new moorings and a pontoon on a newly cleared stretch of canal, adding visual allure to a linear city park previously blocked from view.
Helen Brice, a practicing therapist and resident of the waterways for 14 years, leads a visioning exercise on Saturday for representatives of boaters and residents, including Westbourne ward member Cllr. Adam Hug. The exercise hopefully restarts the process of developing a vision for this space, and improves dialogue between boaters and the borough and Canal and River Trust officials who influence life on the canal.
“Far too often the waterways are developed without thought for the people living on them,” says Helen, who’s Committee Member of the National Bargee Travellers Association, which represents the interests of itinerant live aboard boat dwellers. “When a developer or council does consider canal improvements they often overlook people with a nomadic lifestyle like ours.”
The NBTA has a long-standing dispute with the Canal and River Trust over the loss of towpath moorings in London, and nationally. Referring to planned improvements at Queen Park Canalside she says, “This is an opportunity for a really useful discussion, and we applaud installation of new mooring rings for any boater to use. But we are concerned about hundreds of moorings lost elsewhere.”
On Friday boater/architect Matt Hopkins moderates a panel of architects short-listed in a 2019 London Festival of Architecture design contest for the Westway. They review their designs, the problem with design competitions and what might happen in that space today.
Other activities include music and spoken word poetry from a floating stage. A London Boaters’ “dream team” of marine engineers hosts surgeries for boaters with electrical and other problems to diagnose. Interactive arts are offered with Donald Waugh, former child actor (from “Grange Hill” children’s ‘80s tv series and Bugsy Malone) now doing art therapy with the homeless and aged. A complete list of program elements are online.