The Edmundsbury Court Estate Tenant and Resident Association (TRA) has just been named Lambeth Living’s TRA of the Month. We spoke with Chair, Jonathan Harbourne, who talks about his new Lambeth-wide network of TRAs and why he’s encouraging TRAs to link up more.
So, let’s start at the beginning. What is a TRA all about?
“Well I wish someone had actually told me before they made me chair,” jokes Jonathan. “It all kicked off with phone calls from residents complaining about pigeons on their ledges.”
But now he’s more into it Jonathan sees a Tenant and Resident Association as an opportunity to work together to transform a community. Even communities, plural.
Talking to Jonathan, it seems that his TRA is not short on ideas. He tells me he’s just delivered a survey to start an Edible Garden in one of their disused spaces. In a recent Council meeting they explored putting beehives, gardens and solar panels onto the flat roof.
“We also want to start an after-school kids club in the community hall (currently being renovated). And we want to teach internet to older people on the weekends, and run career workshops for young people during the summer holidays,” say Jonathan.
Another of the TRA’s initiatives is to convert the estate’s disused storage space into a creative hub by renting desk spaces – with the proceeds going to the TRA. By doing this, he hopes to encourage creative people on the estate to give part of their time to the community.
He tells me there are a huge number of creative freelancers who live on the estate – and they have the talents and skills to teach photography, film-making, animation and graphics among other things.
“It’s not just for the kids on the estate – we’d like to open it up to other Lambeth residents. That’s the ultimate aim.”
Jonathan doesn’t take credit for all these ideas. At the 2014 Lambeth Housing Conference he met lots of inspirational people from estates all over Lambeth. He found out what amazing projects they were running. And it’s these ideas that have spurred him on in his own TRA.
It’s also the reason he suggested to Lambeth Living that the chairs and organisers from TRAs would benefit from getting together more often.
And that’s how the Lambeth TRA Network was born. Getting together with other TRA people, to find out what they know, what challenges they had, and how they can support one another, drove him to set up the network.
The first meeting is going to be hosted on 17 February at the Edmundsbury Estate, Ferndale Road. It starts at 7pm.
It’s starting at the beginning, going through what a TRA is, and what it isn’t. Then Cris Claridge and Ian Ritchie from the Southwark Group of Tenants Organisation will tell their story of how they started their organisation (which now attracts significant funding).
Jonathan also reached out to the Big Lottery Fund to ask if they could present on applying for grants.
“I heard a fantastic talk at the London Metropolitan Archives from a woman from the Lottery – she was amazing. I think it’s these very practical and real topics that will make a difference to the people in Brixton, and make it worth the time for TRA organisers – who are really busy people – to attend.”
Jonathan’s vision for the Network is to get people working together, sharing their information and skills, to make Brixton an even better place to live. The Network may also become an important residents voice when the re-integration of Lambeth Living happens in the summer.
For free tickets and more information about the event click here.