On 28 October 2021, the final step in the transformation of a key battleground in the 1981 Brixton uprising to a community resource for local young people, in an innovative creative project co-funded by The National Lottery Heritage Fund and Arts Council England.
BIGKID Foundation has turned the former Dexters Adventure Playground on Railton Road into a place for local young people to learn, play, create and build friendships. Young people were inspired by the lived experience of Brixton residents and local historians in the development of this project. It is part of a wider commemorative programme for 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance produced by The Brixton Project.
The artwork, called Play Futures, has been co-designed by young people supported by BIGKID Foundation and artist Krish Nathaniel who said, “The workshops and final installation we’ve developed with BIGKID at Dexters are all about learning from the past and pairing this with a vision for the future and for young people. Understanding the challenges, injustices, solidarities and joys which the history of Railton Road offers and using this to build a young person-led vision for the area.” The final piece was installed today along the boundary of the site in Railton Rd. The artwork includes several panels depicting the area from the 1970s and scenes from the uprising.
The final panel, a photograph of local hero Collin Marriott, was installed by Lambeth LBC councillor Donatus Anyanwu, the member for Coldharbour and council cabinet member for the voluntary sector and leisure.
He said: “The uprisings were about togetherness and today is all about togetherness. My message to our young people is that we don’t need to have dialogue with weapons or hatred, we can solve issues in a collaborative way. My hope is that we will grow together and support each other more in the future.”
Now BIGKID Foundation intends to celebrate that history by offering new opportunities and hope to the young people of today and future generations.
BIGKID founder and chief executive Shaninga Marasha said: “After much negotiation and hard work Dexters now occupies its rightful place at the heart of the Brixton community. Its strong historical significance – which will live on in this brilliant artwork – makes it the ideal place for generations to come together to learn from each other. It will be a particularly valuable resource for young people in Brixton and across south London.”
Helen Hayes, MP for Dulwich and West Norwood said: ‘I am really excited to see the transformation of the fence at Dexter Adventure Playground by BIGKID Foundation, working with local young people, 81 Acts of Exuberant Defiance and the Brixton Project, to reveal the extraordinary and important role of Railton Road in our social history.’
Binki Taylor, a partner with The Brixton Project, said: “We are delighted to have worked with BIGKID on development of Play Futures. Krish has had a fascination for the history of the space since his involvement in Brixton Design Trail as a student at Central St Martins. The installation will reintegrate Dexters back into the hearts, minds and memories of local people and allow young people to absorb and understand the memories and experience of older generations.”
As well as being a place to meet and socialise, Dexters will provide practical support to young people and the wider Brixton community. BIGKID Foundation is working with community partners and local young people to deliver activities ranging from a film club, book club and music workshops to talks and podcasts about career choices and social justice.
It also plans to host a weekend youth market and a park café. Young people will learn to grow fruit and vegetables on the land and to cook and sell that food on-site.
Dexters is situated in the poorest ward in Lambeth – which also has the second-highest rate of serious youth violence in the borough. BIGKID works with young people at risk of social exclusion and youth violence.
BIGKID Foundation secured a ten year lease on the site after Lambeth Council invited community groups to submit plans to bring it back into effective use in imaginative ways that benefitted local people. The foundation also works in Stockwell and runs many projects across London focussed on those at risk of becoming involved in youth violence or social exclusion.