Holloway Women’s Building – A Vision
The Holloway Women’s Building should be a stunning legacy to the prison. It should spearhead a practical and transformative way of helping all women: those in touch with, or who are in danger of becoming in touch with, the Criminal Justice System, those that find themselves homeless or in difficult circumstances, their families, and the community as a whole.
The services and facilities available in the Women’s Building should be comprehensive, inclusive and (with the exception of the women-only Women’s Centre. which is inclusive of LGBTQ identifiers) be open and inviting to all. The ethos of the Women’s Building should be interwoven into the fabric of whole HMP Holloway re-development, including the commercial, entrepreneurial, charitable and maintenance aspects of the site which are women-led. (This in no way excludes men being involved/employed in or on the site).
The fundamental role of the different organisations within the Women’s Building should be to support women and their families i.e. to help them through difficult times and provide practical assistance in rebuilding their lives. A wide range of services will be gathered under one roof, with mentoring and opportunities for employment and volunteering radiating outwards throughout the site.
This is a once-in-a-lifetime opportunity to build and run something truly transformative, visionary, and entrepreneurial. It should be an integrated future-proof development that puts Islington on the world map for sustainable, 0-Carbon, green City-Living, as well as a starting point on the journey to keep women out of the Criminal Justice System and therefore help families stay together and get the help that they need. It will off activities for the local community, North London, London as a whole, as well as links with other establishments across the country and the world.
Within the Women’s Building will be a Women’s Only Centre with provision of certain services that are best delivered in safe, exclusive space, especially for the vulnerable. Some of the facilities can be shared between the Women’s Centre and the rest of the Women’s Building.
The Women’s Building will also encourage women-led retail spaces, women-led grounds maintenance and women-led farming management throughout the site. This sort of programme gives women the opportunity to be entrepreneurial, evolve their own small businesses, establish supply lines for those businesses and consequently, support their families and grow their businesses. I am in no way suggesting that it should be run only by women and that men cannot be employed (possibly with the exception of the Women’s Centre) On the contrary, the value the skills and knowledge of any individual that can contribute to the Women’s Building and wider development should be appreciated and welcomed, it should just be women-led.
Important services will include emergency housing, business training, employment guidance and opportunities, mentoring, liaison contact for the organisations in the building and further afield. These are needed to address the social stigma that the community often places on women with convictions, providing a space where they can prove themselves and fully integrate back into the community.
The building should be open and light, the opposite of the old Prison. If the design is innovative, it could include enough light to grow indoor fruits and trees that not only provide indoor green space but grow produce that can be incorporated into the Women’s Building’s Farm programme. (See below).
The Covid-19 pandemic has brought to light the need for Future-Proofing, especially in the face of Climate Change and the Black Lives Matter movement, with a far broader and more radical, but informed approach to urban development.
A grant or subsidy should be made available to pay for FUNDING RESEARCH to identify all the different financial streams that could be sourced. Affiliations with Research Institutes, Universities and Businesses will not only help broaden the range of services that the Women’s Building can offer but would enable new services to evolve. This model would make it easier to source new funding streams should any one supporter withdraw for any reason.
An independent, properly funded extensive feasibility study and funding model possibilities should be commissioned. This should involve Reclaim Holloway, Community Plan for Holloway and other interested stakeholders as there is a wealth of individual and professional experience, knowledge and creativity that is offered with passion and a genuine interest to get the ‘best possible outcome’ for the site. The draft masterplan issued by Peabody and the draft brief by Islington Council provide an opportunity to hear those voices in full and come up with a truly innovative solution.
The Council should run competitions for different aspects of the development and future running of the Women’s Building and put out a call out to universities. A number of design and architecture students have produced designs and layouts for the site for their final-year projects during the last few years. We hope this will continue more formally, even in collaboration with the community and CP4H, reclaim Holloway and other interested parties.
The design of the building should be put out to competition to women architects. If Peabody insist on using their nominated group of women architects, then they should work with the competition winner as well in some capacity. This raises a few questions: Why not include students? Could Peabody offer a paid apprenticeship position to the winner? I think that a competition is a worthwhile approach as it will generate ideas that would otherwise not be explored. Peabody and the Architects should be encouraged to work with the winning designer in some capacity.
So many aspects of the whole site development and what goes on in the Women’s Building and the Women’s Centre should be put out to bright young minds. After all, they are a part of the community that will be using the site and the services in the future, so they should have a chance to contribute to its creation. This could be in the building materials, the way rainwater for instance is recycled, what other eco ideas and future living can be included and what technological advances can benefit the site? What about psychological advances in therapy, neurological advances and research into behavioural studies that can come out of this legacy building that will help women worldwide as new practices are shared?
The Women’s Building should be iconic, forward thinking and trail-blazing in its approach. It should be a stand alone building unique in its design and operation. It should be built with a well-informed environmental and sociological considerations in mind. It should be in a prominent position and a truly transformative legacy to the 162 years that the prison operated on the site.
We should accept nothing less.
There's nothing to say that you can’t put premium luxury flats on the top of the Women’s Building which would enhance the building as a whole and make it more prestigious. It could have an air bridge access to a Women’s Building roof garden on adjacent flats. Including flats in a Women’s Building is different from “tucking away” the Woman’s Building within a generic block of flats, which seems to be what is proposed at the moment. This approach is an insult to the legacy of the prison and failure to properly integrate women and their future well-being into the fabric of the concept of the site.
The highest sustainability and energy efficient credentials should be employed that are required to be in line with best practice - if not better than best practice. New innovative ideas should be sought and considered. Future City-Living may well look very different from what City-Living looks like now. In order to be sustainable, ergonomic, economic and Future-Proof a wide range of ideas need to be researched and implemented.
Affordable to Run and Maintain
The Women’s Building should be designed to be robust and affordable to run and maintain so as not to burden future operators of the building with high management and maintenance costs.
Peabody is offering to build the Women’s Building and operate it on a ‘Peppercorn’ rent. This will make it accessible to the sort of services that the building needs to provide. However, a properly funded Feasibility Study must be carried out on all the possible avenues of funding. We must think outside the box, there is no building in existence which operates to provide this sort of legacy development and therefore traditional funding streams need to be re-evaluated and expanded upon.
A dedicated Fundraising Manager needs to be employed to ensure continuous and sustainable funding streams and source new ones.
This complex should still be looked upon as something special in 50 or 100 years time.
Members: should be representatives of the community, have the ultimate decision-making power. They elect board members and vote on strategic decisions (to be defined).
Board: have independent control over, and legal responsibility for, an organisation’s management and administration. We suggest a quota system for the Board, including
- 100% of the Board are comprised of individuals identifying as women
- Ethnic makeup should reflect greater London
- Minimum numbers for categories such as: tenants, lived experience, people under 30, etc.
- Reserved seats for specific types of organisations working with those with protected characteristics; (LGBTQI+, BME, disabilities, etc.)
User group: The Board should deliver regular updates to User group, made up of beneficiaries (including service providers and their beneficiaries) of the building, who hold the Board to account. Also, we recognize that some of the users may not want to be on the Board for personal reasons.
Management: They run the day to day operations of the Women’s Building.
Democratic decision making
Decisions that affect the running of, the users, stakeholders or the community should be put to the relevant parties where possible. This can be done in many ways, including, but not limited to; Noticeboards, Social Media and On-line platforms that allow comments and voting from a transparent, inclusive and informative platform.
The needs of women who are released from prison.
I am referring to ‘women’ in the account below as we are applying this to the needs of the Women’s Building, however, this story will also be familiar to men.
Women in this country are released back into the community with a discharge fee of £47.50 and a travel allowance/ticket to get them to a destination near to where they have to sign in with Probation before they go on to their (sometimes assigned) accommodation. The Prison System and various associated Charities do their best to ensure that the prisoner has suitable accommodation to go to, but unfortunately this is often not achieved.
If a woman is being released on Licence, i.e. they have completed half their sentence in custody and will serve the rest of their sentence in the community attending regular probation meetings until their sentence is finished, the prison has an obligation to ensure suitable accommodation and makes efforts to do checks.
There may be many complications here including suitable housing; Women often get assigned to mixed hostels where they do not feel safe and where drug, alcohol and mental health problems. There may be children involved; Who was looking after the children while she was in custody? If she was abused by her partner or the children’s father, is that environment safe and secure for her to go back to? Were the children taken into care? What up-hill struggles does she have to go through re-unite her family and begin to mend the trauma’s caused by their separation?
If a woman is being released at the end of her sentence the prison does not have the same obligations to ensure accommodation, therefore, although they may have tried their best, often it is up to the woman herself to sort herself out.
The whole point of prison is to help ‘reform’ the offender as well as punish them for their offence and prepare them for life back in the community. It is this last point that prisons, with their strict regimes, are practically unable to do effectively. Incarcerating women in particular, is known to have detrimental effects on families and children for generations. Holloway Women’s Building has to be the first steps forward in providing an alternative solution to this problem.
When you have been incarcerated for a long time, with no access to the internet or way of dealing with anything yourself, you have to re-learn how to live in the community; Finding accommodation is just the beginning; They may have no phone, laptop or other device, transport or friends or family that can help them to rebuild their lives.
If a woman has served a long sentence (I would say over 3 months) She will probably have lost any job she had before she went to prison, she may have lost her home and her belongings; Other people often have to sort out a prisoners life on the outside, this results in items of sentimental, personal or intrinsic value becoming lost and or stored in various locations, not always suitable. Clothes may be mouldy, items missing or broken. Even the police are often unable to return property that they took as evidence as it will have been destroyed without consent as the processes often does not take into account the slow nature of the prison system and their own systems when they send letters notifying of imminent pending destruction of their property.
The woman may have no valid ID. She may need to get a new passport, birth certificate, bank account in order to begin her new life, get a phone contract, but have no money to pay for it. She will need to begin paying rent and bills where she has to prove who she is, but can’t because all her documents are out of date. Getting anywhere without Photo-ID can be really difficult these days.
If she then applies for Universal Credit, she will have to wait 5 weeks before she gets regular payments, or maybe she has to pay back an emergency loan, putting her in debt before she has even started.
She might wish to return to her previous profession. Even if her offence was unrelated, getting insurance can be at worst impossible, at best difficult. This means that she may have to retrain or find other work while struggling with all other aspects of re-building her life.
Life Skills Training is imperative. Suddenly being responsible for bills and looking after her own life again is a daunting task. The prison does allow some women out on ROTL (Release on temporary licence) to visit family for day and overnight visits, or to work mostly voluntarily as the prison will generally only approve work at charities that they have vetted. Although this is great as part of the journey back into society, it does not provide the opportunity for women to set anything up for their release in a meaningful way. If the woman does get paid for her ROTL work, she has to give 40% of their earnings to the prison, but paid jobs are rare. A woman will get paid £10 a week while she does a job in the prison while she is in custody and gets £15 a week plus her travel and lunch for working on ROTL. Some prison jobs, like working with DHL in the warehouse that distributes the prisoners canteen orders to the prison pay a little more about £25. This just enough to buy things on the weekly canteen sheet, but is not enough to save up to have some funds on release.
A woman who has found herself homeless for any reason, or is fleeing from domestic abuse, will face similar challenges
Every woman using the services of the Women’s Building should have access to a personal Mentor. The mentor may have a number of women at any one time that they are helping. This will enable one person to understand the individual’s situation and challenges that each woman faces and give them the help, advise and signpost to the relevant organisations that they need, all under one roof so that she does not have to travel to many different locations.
In the NCJAA (National Criminal Justice Arts Alliance) AGM on the 13th June 2020, Lady Unchained explained “You serve your sentence in prison, then when you are released you begin another sentence as you try to re-build your life in the community” She was particularly relating to her experience as a BAME representative, but this is true for all women, whatever the colour of their skin. Restoring your identity, housing and child care issues, securing an income and learning new skills is an up-hill struggle on release; the £47.50 that a prisoner gets on release is insufficient to really begin this Journey, but the fact that there is no obvious place to go and seek help really puts the hand-break on for many women. Prisons often fail to find suitable housing for women on release, the hostels that they are assigned to are often mixed and suffer drug, alcohol and mental health issues. They just need a safe space for a few weeks while a case worker finds them somewhere to move on to.
Having one point of contact with her case will also negate the need for her to continue to detail her personal situation and details repeatedly to different organisations that may or may not be able to help her. Trying to have strangers understand complex circumstances is frustrating and time consuming as well as demeaning, as often uninformed, unsympathetic or stereotypical judgements are made. A designated Mentor will also give the woman someone that she can get not only practical help, but trust, advice, ideas, confidence and connections. This sort of help should not just be for sorting out any immediate problems, but to help and guide the woman and her family through any future difficulties. For instance; the death of a family member or close friend, the loss of a job, or a theft for example could be really de-railing for someone trying to re-build their lives, and my come years after her initial contact with the services offered by the Women’s Building. Knowing that there is somewhere that you can turn to provide practical and emotional support, that her children can turn to when they need help in the future alleviates a lot of un-necessary stress that can arise from such situations.
Community Mentors should also be encouraged to help the community get involved with assisting vulnerable women on their new paths and help them integrate back into the community. This will make them feel welcome, Not stigmatised or labelled. We need to encourage the community to forgive indiscretions when sentences have been served, to see everyone, whatever their story, as a person just like themselves and embrace second chances. Educating the community to not to fear people with convictions, or that are homeless or vulnerable, but to welcome and encourage women to lead their best lives and become valued members of society has to be one of the main goals of the Women’s Building.
Anyone could find themselves in unforeseen or difficult circumstances, that ‘anyone’ could just as easily be you!
There is a move to try and get the Courts to find alternatives to imprisoning women, as it is well known that women are not only most often the main care givers in a family, but often commit offences due the fact that they have been let down by the system or men! It is also well known that short sentences do not work and lead to ‘revolving door’ cycle of:
Imprisonment – release - No practical help – reoffending – imprisonment -
The Women’s Building can offer solutions for community sentences, voluntary employment opportunities, ROTL as well as training and skills development and Business and Careers Advice.
A Women’s Building – Help all under one roof
In order to help women re-integrate back into the community after a traumatic experience (which is what prison is and we have all hopefully begin to understand having experienced Lock-Down) the Women’s Building (incorporating the Women’s Centre) needs to be at the heart of the development, that the whole community can embrace and experience. Women have been shut away behind the walls for over 100 years, it is time to open up, tackle the issues and unite the community. Having all community facilities and services under one roof and in one place makes integration easier, the whole building a more widely used and therefore more viable.
The Women’s Building would house:
A Women’s Centre – A Women-Only space providing help, therapy, advice and assistance to all women in touch with the Criminal Justice System and in the community wherever they live.
Women’s Building General ‘Community’ Centre – an open and inclusive space that has facilities for the whole community
Shared workshops and training rooms – Enabling classes for women-only sessions as well as the whole community
A Roof Garden – A space for the Women’s Building Farming Project and a mindfulness space
Women’s Building Farming Programme – maintenance and running of the grounds and gardens through to sale and distribution of produce.
Women’s Building General ‘Community’ Centre
This would be a friendly open space that is accessible and welcoming to everyone.
It would include:
An open reception lobby area – This could be hired for events and will be a welcoming communal multi-functional space.
A Women’s Building shop, selling items made in the building, by women in prison and other secure settings and by women in the community, as well as Women’s Building merchandise.
A Museum Area – a space honouring and informing the history of the prison
A Café – This could be run by volunteers and women on ROTL as well as employees.
A Creche – Women need somewhere for their children to be looked after while they are accessing services.
An Exhibition Space – Some where that can be hired and exhibit cultural and community projects as well as individual and group shows.
Hot-Desking – A space for people to meet and work together.
Function Rooms – Rooms that can be rented to to businesses and the wider community
Therapy Rooms – Space to deal with personal issues in groups
Interview rooms – Spaces for more intimate counselling and therapy
Art and Craft Workshops – See Training and Skills below.
Relationship counselling – Understanding that often women’s problems stem from their relationships with men, relationship counselling would look at all the factions within the family unit to understand them and find the best solutions for the whole family.
Legal Advice – Women may have on-going problem with their offences, or find themselves dealing with civil matters, family or criminal courts.
Bereavement Services – This can be particularly difficulty for vulnerable women, or any family member.
An Auditorium – A space that could be hired for conferences, entertainment and performances by theatre groups, musicians or schools etc.
Employment Agency – This should be an integral part of the Women’s Building. Case workers would help women find employment that suits their skill base and interests. This will require personal case workers, outreach to diverse business nationwide, and versatile employment opportunities throughout the Women’s Building site.
Careers Advice – helping women find areas of employment that will work for them, and how to go about preparing themselves for that work.
Life Coaching – When women are re-building their lives they often need help and guidance in the things that many people would not consider or take for granted. Guidance in how to establish your new life within society is essential for practical and confidence reasons.
Emergency studio Flats – See below
Managerial Offices – spaces from where the building would be run
Dance space with sprung floor – A community exercise space, divisible and shared with the Women’s Centre.
A Gym - A community exercise space, divisible and shared with the Women’s Centre.
Recording room - These acoustically secure rooms could also be used as recording studio, this could provide additional income and affiliation with Prison Radio could be created.
Photographic and printing Studio – Portraits, commercial photography, printing and design services, linked with employment services for freelancers. It would also have a Green-Screen facility to photograph against for digital image editing.
A Youth Centre – A place where young people can meet and participate in activites.
Training and Skills
Many men and women want to improve their lives by improving or learning new skills. This may be a new hobby that grows into a business or is just enjoyed as a pastime. Having facilities that offer a wide range of subjects open to the whole community will give the community a real ownership of the Women’s Building as they have many reasons to want to use its services and facilities.
Training and skills should be an integral part of what the Women’s building will offer.
Some of these rooms could be accessed from both the Women’s Centre and the Women’s Building so that some sort of time-share access can be arranged for women-only classes.
Subjects and facilities would include:
IT – Giving people basic computer skills these days is integral to them being able to operate in society. This space could also include a refurbishment of second-hand items and charitably donated items given to people who need them and cannot afford them.
A more Advanced Computer Skills Programme would enable affiliations with the Employment centre will encourage freelance and employment opportunities.
Art – Art is a very useful therapy and skill to participate in. Items made can be sold in the Women’s Building Shop and wider retail outlets.
Craft – Craft skills enable people to make things that are useful to them, given as gifts or sold for income. Items made can be sold in the Women’s Building Shop and wider retail outlets.
Woodworking – Would encourage up-cycling and traditional craft skills. The building should have a comprehensive up-cycling and repair centre. Items made can be sold in the Women’s Building Shop and wider retail outlets.
Ceramics – Ceramics were one of the most popular therapeutic classes in HMP Holloway. Items made can be sold in the Women’s Building Shop and wider retail outlets.
Textiles – Teaching people how to repair and make their own items is not only empowering, economically. Items made can be sold in the Women’s Building Shop and wider retail outlets.
Cookery – Cookery was really popular at HMP Holloway. Teaching people cookery and nutritional skills can transform families in many ways.
The Women’s Centre
The Women’s Centre will be housed within the Women’s Building.
Changing public perception of women with convictions does not come with just telling them to do so. This site needs to trail-blaze a new approach to helping women in-touch with the Criminal Justice System with support and integration within the community. This will provide real opportunity for them once they have re-gained their self-confidence and resolved the detrimental situations that they found themselves in. Just mending people is not enough, we need to empower them and give them the proper and relevant tools and pathways to build new lives, not just ending up in a cycle as a victim of circumstance again.
A huge percentage of women end up committing offences because they have either been let down by the system, or they have been put in a difficult position by men. A Women’s Centre that provides help, therapy, space to learn yoga and do some arts (I am paraphrasing) is I feel, just putting a sticking plaster on a much bigger problem.
The Women’s Centre should be a space where new therapy methods can be explores, legal, housing, family and personal issues can be resolved and in conjunction with the Women’s Building, help women flourish within the community.
There needs to be provision for women who have suffered trauma and need help to re-build their lives, and that a Women’s only centre is indeed needed. However, most women are in relationships with male partners with children involved. It strikes me that the Women’s Centre in the Women’s Building should be somewhere where all of women’s problems can be addressed, and that would involve help with relationships, male anger management (This could be referred to another site) and legal issues.
Just because a woman is vulnerable at a certain point in her life, does not mean she will stay vulnerable. The point is to be able to help her grow, how is she supposed to grow if there is no on-going provision for her and her family beyond the Women’s Centre and she has to travel all over London to engage with other non-vulnerable services?
The Women’s Centre should have its own access as well as additional access from the Women’s Building. Having a single dedicated entrance may provide a space for confrontational or stalking encounters to take place.
In research at HMP Downview it was established that the women would like Safe Spaces to accommodate themselves when they want to self-harm. Spaces like this have shown a reduction in the practice, a model that could be rolled out for safe drug-taking as trialled in Netherlands and Portugal.
Women who have been in contact with the Criminal Justice System do not want to retain attachments to it once they have completed their sentences. They want to re-build their lives independently and look to new futures that does not involve the stigma that having a conviction automatically puts on them. They need to resolve any issues they have, legal or otherwise, and find meaningful employment, develop their skills and secure housing.
Women in the community are wary about attending an establishment that is too tied with the Criminal Justice System as some community members said that “Don’t feel safe sitting next to criminals”. I think this comment that was brought up in a meeting on the Andover Estate. This shows the delicate line that needs to be taken to ensure that everyone feels welcome and safe and no one feels judged.
There is an underlying sense of distrust around the involvement of Mopac. Funding other bodies to deliver fully inclusive services to vulnerable women that are clearly seen as for all and not just the Criminal Justice System, may be one way that a compromise can be met.
Please be aware that visiting anywhere that still has ties to the Criminal Justice System, such as the involvement of MOPAC, can also create a sense of still being controlled and monitored by the system as well as the physical environment. MOPAC may sponsor or endorse some of the services, but from the perception of the wider community, the public and service users, having MOPAC too fundamentally involved could create an underlying stigma and prejudice towards the women using the Women’s Centre. Women who do not have any criminal record may feel that they are painted with the same brush if they are to use the services offered.
Emergency Studio Flats – Short Term Housing
The Women’s Building should also provide emergency housing for women who find themselves in difficult situations. Small studio flats where the woman can stay while she sorts her problems out with her personal mentor who will use the services of the Women’s Building to find her suitable more permanent accommodation, be that on the site or not. Women coming out of trauma do not need spacious one bedroom flats, they need a space that they can operate from. These I would call ‘Stepping Stone Emergency Housing’ as the whole point would be to find the solutions for the occupant that enables her to move on, freeing up the Studio flat for the next woman. Establishing lasting relationships between the women and the Women’s Building will help ensure its success.
• I met a homeless woman on the street in Stroud Green today, her husband had committed suicide and as the flat was in his name the government refused to pay her housing. The debts mounted until she was evicted and found herself homeless. She got a place in the Homeless hostel above the Visitors Centre, but was evicted due to the Covid-19 pandemic. She explained that some people were moved to hotels, but that was initially just for 3 months and they are now finding themselves forced back on the street as the Council will not pay for their extended stay. She was offered a mixed hostel that was housing people with drug, alcohol and mental health problems. She refused, having experienced Hostels before, felt safer on the street.
She explained that a studio flat with her own washing facilities would help her get back on her feet. (Communal laundries and washing areas are the sort of areas that are prone to conflict = missing laundry, overused machines, mess etc.) Having control of your own washing is an important part of rebuilding self-worth, Emergency housing like this would give her her own space that was easy to manage, enable her to begin to accessing services that she needed in the Women’s Building, be they housing, legal, child, employment, skills training, therapy, or other creative and health services. These services would be responsible for finding more permanent housing for the woman, freeing up her studio flat for the next person. The woman could then continue to use the services of the Women’s Building in her new life journey. Just because there it is hard to find people housing now is not an excuse not to provide such an essential service. Things do change, and in this current climate, this should be something that we are driving forward in a co-ordinated way involving Peabody, the council, private landlords and the community with schemes that encourage people to rent rooms in their homes.
Assisted/Supported Housing – Medium Term Housing
This would be housing for women with children or who have been moved on from Short-Term Housing in the Women’s Building. The goal being that they stay while they got they help they needed to find a permanent home.
The Women’s Building should also have Research Facilities that look into finding out why women find themselves in the situations that they do, what are the social factors, genetic factors and environmental factors? And how can these be addressed in the future? Collaborations and affiliations with Business and universities could produce some ground-breaking new ideas in many fields; Psychology, Behavioural Science, Social Science to name but a few.
Women’s Building Farming Programme
The Women’s Building would have a City Farming programme that makes full use of the green spaces for growing plants that can be sold as food or used in the construction or production of products. A fully integrated service that manages the green space to produce food, income and products for the Women’s Building and wider community, and includes management, outlets, supply lines and research and development. It will provide many employment, educative and voluntary opportunities and be a model for sustainable City-Living worldwide.
Run by a women-led team as a legacy to the Garden Girls who maintained the gardens within the prison superbly would provide employment and education as well as commercial possibilities. This venture would not alter the above ground building plan and would not only offer an ongoing legacy to the prison but employment, training and business opportunities for women and the community as a whole. In the face of Climate Change, the Black Lives Matter movement the whole concept of Urban Developments needs to be carefully considered. By growing food on-site in the City, there is 0-Carbon emissions of bringing food (Specifically plant based foods and fish supplies) on to the site to feed the community, but it can also supply the local shops and specialist food providers. We could be facing water, fuel and food shortages as well as future pandemics, these things should underpin the development so that the community is as self-sustaining as possible well into the future.
Above Ground and indoor/glasshouse farming
Permaculture style planting – Planted fruit, vegetables, herbs, medicinal and functional plants throughout the gardens will not only provide employment, voluntary opportunities in a fully functional green space, but provide additional income, manage the land, and educate people around growing food, botanical matters and grounds/landscape gardening.
This will also be a fitting legacy to the Garden Girls at Holloway who kept and maintained the gardens to superb standard; The prison used to invite the public in on paid tours of the gardens.
The grounds, and all the pop-up café’s or events that go on there would be organised and maintained by a women-led team from the Women’s Building.
The Women’s Building in collaboration with the community would hold ownership over the management of the outside space will enable many youngsters and older people on the estate to by engaging them on a voluntary or educative basis, help keep them socially engaged and give the community ownership of the site.
All sorts of produce can be grown around the site, in the building’s communal spaces and on the roof gardens as well as the Underground Farms. This could include Bee Keeping, Vegetables, Fruit, herbs, plants like Bamboo that could be used in the gardens for growing vegetables, herbs, plants that have other uses for example that make dyes to teach traditional skills and techniques, or produce other useful materials (weaving, resins etc.). If the building or roofs have glass conservatory areas, this will enable growth of warmer climate species and propagation of young plants.
The Gardens would also contain:
Mural and Graffiti wall
Pop-Up café’s and Market Stalls
Nature Garden with pond
An Outdoor workshop for the community
A stores area for keeping tools
Commercial spaces in and around the site
All the commercial spaces under the Women’s Building and the flats should be women led, and employ women, men and volunteers of all ages.
The fundamental ethos behind these spaces should be to encourage female entrepreneurs and business start-ups that provide a wide range of services and goods to the community.
The commercial spaces should be integrated with the Women’s Building, the services it offers and the Women’s Building Farming Project and subsequent supply lines.
The Women’s Building Bike Centre
This space will be an integral part of the whole development as it will be car-free. It would include sales of new bikes and scooters, accessories, repair, training and act as recycling centre providing bikes and scooters and locks to those in need who can’t afford to buy them at that time in their lives.
Bicycle Repair, recycling and sales – A community led venture providing service to this car-free development. Bikes, scooters, electric bikes, mobility scooters will all become more widely used and will need upkeep and repair services
These spaces could be offered on a joint venture basis, encouraging young designers, start-ups and entrepreneurs to get together, combining their stock and running the shop between them. This would enable the start-up businesses to share the responsibilities and costs of running an outlet and learn from each other in the process. They would have help and guidance from the Women’s Building in running and promoting their businesses.
Dry foods and product Re-Fill Shops – As we tackle plastic waste more outlets providing refill services will become commonplace. The site should be a Plastic Free as possible!
Our high streets are likely to be in a bit of a crisis post Covid-19, providing a space for new and up-and-coming business to emerge. The commercial spaces on the Women’s Building Site should be a place for them to grow.
We have one chance to do it right and the world is watching. Let’s get creative!