Thames Life is a charity working across the borough, though our focus is mostly on Thames View and Barking Riverside – hence the name. We started as a new Lottery funded project in 2017 based in Riverside School before becoming an independent charity in 2020, with resident trustees as our bosses.
Thames View and Riverside can feel like a bit of an island. If you’ve ever experienced the congestion of the A13 you’ll know exactly why. Our charitable purpose is about ensuring there are public benefits to urban regeneration and nowhere has more need of it than Thames View and Barking Riverside. It is both the site of major housing development, with the population set to quadruple in the space of a few years and some of the highest rates of deprivation in London and the country.
Our approach is simple – we believe in resident-led change. Regeneration will only work when residents lead it. Lead not follow. Talking to residents many believe they can’t change anything, that the council and developers will do what they want regardless. There’s no denying that there’s a lot of hype and a corresponding sense of fatalism and frustration. But there has to be something more to life than that – there’s a magic when residents and local groups take control and when partnership becomes real.
When we first started we formed a Young Citizens Action Group, where pupils of Riverside School persuaded Transport for London to invest £1,000,000 into local buses. The same young people won the keys for a community garden (Barking Food Forest) having successfully negotiated with Barking Riverside Ltd, our partner, to hand over keys to the site, where local people can now grow their own food and help with the cultivation and upkeep of the site.
More recently we’ve been working closely with the NHS delivering GP pop-ups in local community spaces ensuring residents can see a doctor whilst also engaging with a range of community services and activities. Waiting times being what they are this has been very popular. We’ve done similar events out of Barking Learning Centre for homeless residents.
Our community and green spaces are under pressure and never more needed than coming out of a pandemic and cost of living crisis. We have been campaigning for the reopening of the Ripple Nature Reserve, closed since 2018 and much loved by residents. Likewise threatened loss of the maker space known as the warehouse on 47 Thames Road has galvanised action by local people and funders, asking the council to reconsider their commercial and community priorities. If we don’t have places to meet and be together the regeneration will make people more isolated, so we want free maker and community spaces as a basic right.
We do a lot of sports activities, training, workshops, forums, social events that are open to all – see our website and our free newspaper – the RiverView. We’d love to hear from you if you have any ideas for projects and priorities or time to give.