There seemed to be a lot of debate surrounding the Gateway Projection interactive light show at Southend Victoria Gateway during the weekend. There are a number of locals who opposed the idea. “A waste of their council tax,” they claim. I can’t argue with them there; people should have the right to have their say on what their council tax should be contributing toward.

During the weekend, many of you may have noticed that strange looking structure at the Victoria Gateway outside of Southend Victoria railway station. There were a couple of marquees beside it, and at first I thought it was something to deter skaters from playing around in the area. In fact, I even Tweeted:

But still, I lazily dismissed it a few times during the day as it was slightly off-path from between Southend Victoria and the high street. And my small curiosity didn’t beg at me to take a few seconds detour from the fast-paced crowd to even ask. Regretfully.

Most of those whom frequently pass the area cannot help but notice the abundance of skateboarding activity. Many even go so far as to complain, if not about the unruly appearance of Southend’s skaters loitering in the area, then with concerns of safety for the young skateboarders attempting tricks and falling off their skateboards so close to the traffic. You may complain about the skateboarding there, but you have to admit that they tend to keep to themselves and they seem to be the only ones utilising that vast area at all. And it’s nice to see some kind of lively animation around. It’s almost like free street entertainment!

The Victoria Gateway doesn’t generate a lot of footfall as is. And why should it? Even without the skaters there, people have no reason for going beyond the short walk between Southend Victoria and the high street. I think the Gateway Projections, though maybe it seemed to serve no obvious purpose, it was a creative way of getting feedback from the locals about what they would like to see there to put the area to use.

I think I get the idea of what the people who use the area the most want to see here…

Southend Victoria Gateway Projections

If you can read the graffiti…

Southend Victoria Gateway ProjectionsWith Stuart Bowditch (a local artist) DJing the event, pumping the party with some upbeat electro and then chilling it down with some lovely ambient music, the light show was almost like a modern version of those traditional British street parties that the council is supposedly wanting to bring back this Summer. But one that teenagers could hang out at and not feel so uncool for having attended. I think the area proved itself a great place to hold such an event, and I for one would see more larger scale events take place there (with proper barriers safeguarding the public from the traffic of course).

The projections danced along the surface of the floor, displaying images contributed by the people of Southend. Images representing ideas for the use of Victoria Gateway’s public space. Ideas drawn, designed or discussed by locals themselves. It’s this kind of collaborative process that I think Southend really needs. To bring the community together in a productive way, and discuss the changes that we would like to see.

The event was organised by Sustrans, a national charity, who have been working on unique community driven projects for Southend-on-Sea entitled “Pocket Places For People“, and their mission is to “collaboratively transform unused/poorly used public places into more welcoming, people friendly and vibrant community spaces!”. And I think the Gateway Pocket Projections achieved that. Local Southenders collaborated to transform a poorly used public space into a vibrant community area. At one point, the council even threatened to shut them down because people were partying too hard.

I can’t wait to see what other projects pop up in the future…

Southend Victoria Gateway Projections

Images taken from the Love Southend Instagram.