The first event of LSE Research Festival 2015 featured Dr Suzanne Hall, assistant sociology professor at LSE, presenting the LSE Cities ‘Ordinary Streets’ research project to sixth form students from Harris Academies in Peckham. Students got the opportunity to engage directly with research about an area they were very familiar with, and provided thoughtful and considered comments on Suzanne’s work. It is this kind of active engagement with social science that LSE Research Festival events seek to foster in a wide variety of audiences. The official report from LSE Press Office regarding the event is reproduced below.
Harris Academy students gain insight into cultural and economic life of Rye Lane, Peckham in LSE workshop
A researcher from LSE gave students from Harris Sixth Form an insight into the work of social scientists at a workshop focusing on the economic and cultural life of Rye Lane, Peckham, yesterday (Wednesday 18 March, 2015).
Dr Suzanne Hall, assistant sociology professor at LSE, visited Harris Girls’ Academy East Dulwich as part of LSE’s Research Festival which aims to get people outside of academia interested in and debating issues raised by social science research.
Dr Hall used Rye Lane as a lens to explore issues of social change, including migration and urbanisation, with a group of 15-20 Year 12 students from Harris Girls’ and Harris Boys’ Academies East Dulwich and Harris Academy Peckham.
The students were introduced to Dr Hall’s LSE Cities research project ‘Ordinary Streets’ which found that Rye Lane is home to independent traders from over twenty countries of origin, with over a quarter of the traders speaking four languages or more. Rye Lane Town Centre hosts 2100 formal businesses and 13 400 formal jobs. Trade on the street is diverse and intense, with some sub-divided shops having the same rental value per square metre as shops in Knightsbridge.
Dr Hall said: “It was an absolute pleasure to engage with students from the Harris Academies in Peckham. Not only was it great to access their insights about an area that they know well, but as curious and intelligent young people, they offer important perspectives on how the world is changing.
“High streets such as Rye Lane are the seemingly ordinary, but vital, worlds which are within a five minute walk of two-thirds of Londoners’ homes. However, their real value is often ‘invisible’ to those responsible for urban planning.
“I hope the workshop gave them a better understanding of how social science can be used in the real world – in this instance to understand streets culturally and economically so that their vibrancy can be properly valued in the planning and regeneration processes for example. If we fail to do this, we risk losing what makes ethnically diverse streets so successful to ‘cappuccino urbanism’.”
Kaniya Abubakar, Head Girl at Harris Academy Peckham, said of the workshop: “It was a really thought-provoking insight into our community. Dr Hall’s research into the immense complexity of Rye Lane’s commercial and cultural identity was particularly fascinating.”
Clement Aro, a student from Harris Boys’ Academy East Dulwich, said: “I was really surprised to find out that Rye Lane is as important to the London economy as the Westfield Centre in Stratford.”
The workshop was held as part of LSE’s Widening Participation Programme and also Harris’ own Harris Experience Advanced programme, which aims to enrich students’ extra-curricular learning and familiarise them with top Russell Group universities such as LSE. More broadly, the Initiative offers students a set of experiences and guidance to help build their confidence and academic profile so they can apply to university as strong candidates.
Dill Anstey, Vice Principal of Federation Sixth Form, said, “We’re thrilled to be working so closely with the London School of Economics and Political Science. One of the key features of our Harris university preparation programme is to tap into the wealth of opportunities on offer from universities. LSE, which is a world leader in this field, is of particular benefit to our more able students, who have high aspirations and a real curiosity and thirst for knowledge. Experiences like this, where they work closely with a university, give them confidence to see themselves as part of the research process and to understand the link between universities and original research. We’re looking forward to more links with LSE in the future.”