Fans of the future - building blocks at Champion Hill

Campaign to ensure that the Department for Education (DfE) did not compromise the size of a much needed new secondary school
Published Fri 2 Oct 2015

One of the most enjoyable and rewarding community initiatives we’ve been involved with recently was the well-run, driven and insightful SPACE Southwark campaign.

Catherine Rose approached us about sponsorship and support, and on this occasion both the ethos and method of delivery were too good to turn down.

For those of you who weren’t aware, this was the local parent- led campaign to ensure that the Department for Education (DfE) did not compromise the size of a much needed new secondary school, by also squeezing a disputed primary school onto the Dulwich Hospital site. Over 700 supporting families signed a petition, endorsed by both Dame Tessa Jowell, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood at the time and the Leader of Southwark Council, Cllr Peter John.

Rather than the standard requests for cheques, SPACE wanted two things – some help acquiring more than 50,000 LEGO bricks, and for us to allow the takeover of Dulwich Hamlet’s stadium for a couple of days. They didn’t want much – just the bar, the squash courts, and pretty much anywhere else that excited children and a whole heap of LEGO could be squeezed into.

So, on a very appropriate February 14th, over 150 local children from 8 local primary schools gathered together at Champion Hill to imagine, design and build their own dream school in LEGO. Classrooms, learning spaces and all forms of outdoor and indoor sports facilities were taken from concept drawings through to fully formed LEGO creations. This all happened thanks to the very generous and expert support provided by our scheme architects, Farrells. We also secured the vital services of the LEGO genius Chris Smith, a specialist LEGO stadium builder, otherwise known as Brickstand. Both contributed massively in terms of both talent and enthusiasm

Students get to work on the new school

It resonated with us for obvious reasons. Firstly – we’re obsessed with design and construction, and there’s a fair few LEGO enthusiasts amongst the Hadley team. Point us at a development site, no matter how small it is, and we’re there with bells on. Secondly – there was a chance to further engage with the local community which holds this club so dear. We like to think that we’ve been pretty good custodians so far, and have dug deep in terms of both financing, and in the commitment of physical resource – and days such as these are one of the many potential roles for a local club.

Whether it’s for educational purposes, in a fund-raising capacity, or just to help out with a cause that affects a number of the club’s youngest fans; who will of course attend the school that will become our new neighbours – we were more than happy to help. And we got this great model of the stadium too…

As a result of seeing the community’s commitment to the SPACE Southwark Campaign and providing practical support to make the LEGO build a reality, we were able to develop a genuine dialogue with The Charter School Educational Trust (TCSET), prior to the DfE approving their bid to deliver the new secondary school. The TCSET are now one of our potential partners for the proposed development. We’ve been discussing uninterrupted gratis use of the site for years to come, and are very happy to be having this conversation.

We’re delighted that a fun day of creative LEGO building and the collective effort of the local community helped lay the foundations what we think is a forward-thinking, progressive attitude towards this scheme – and we hope that’s coming across in the way we’re progressing towards submission. You can read more about this here

"Without the practical support of DHFC and Hadley for our LEGO event, SPACE Southwark would not have made the huge impact that it did.It was a genuine and rewarding partnership."

Catherine Rose SPACE Campaign Co-ordinator