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Doughnut: the Outer London Festival

While, across the UK, the proportion of children receiving free school meals has dropped by 3% over the past 5 years, the decline in central London has been considerably higher. On average, inner London has seen a 16% fall with four boroughs achieving a reduction of more than 25%. A cause for celebration? Not exactly. The full picture only becomes clear when we consider the situation in the outer boroughs. In Merton, the figure has escalated over the same period by 19%; in Bexley by 15%; in Croydon by 11%. The statistics offer persuasive evidence that, caught between the benefit cap and rising rents, poorer residents are relocating from the centre of London to its periphery en masse.

This demographic change is soon to be paralleled by a major wave of construction in outer London. In February, the city’s population reached 8.5 million - matching the record previously set in 1939 - and the escalation is only set to continue. Driven by a rising birth-rate and extended life expectancy, London’s population is due to increase by a staggering 1.5 million over the next 15 years. The vast majority of these new residents will be housed in the outer boroughs.

Doughnut: Outer London Festival

These changes potentially represent exciting news for outer London. As the city centre increasingly becomes the preserve of wealthy home-owners and tourists, it is the periphery that retains the possibility of supporting a genuinely urban mix of rich and poor, young and old - not to mention functions other than just housing. Yet it will only fulfil that potential with sensitive and effective planning. There is a real risk that, unchecked, the transformation of outer London will comprise nothing more than the introduction of a series of high-rise dormitory villages clustered around transport interchanges. The challenge lies in building communities, not just housing units.

In recognition of this new chapter in the city’s development, the Architecture Foundation is staging a day-long event at the Old Royal Naval College in Greenwich, on Saturday 5th September. Doughnut: the Outer London Festival will bring together architects, historians, economists and writers to discuss the rich existing culture of the city’s periphery and the challenges that it now faces. Outer London stands at a moment of extraordinary opportunity. A public discussion about how it can captitalise on that potential can’t begin too soon.

Doughnut: the Outer London Festival

The day long exploration of London’s rapidly transforming periphery is taking place on September 5th 2015.
To find out more about the festival and purchase tickets to the event, click here.

Main Stage Programme

Four sessions of debates and conversations exploring the critical issues that will shape Outer London’s future.


11.00: Outer London Landscapes and the Future of the Green Belt
Andy Groarke | Lynn Kinnear | Barney Stringer | Ellis Woodman | Tom Holbrook

London is currently developing plans for the transformation of a number of major landscapes on its periphery, notably Rectory Farm in Hounslow, Walthamstow Wetlands and the Lower Lea Valley. Bringing together industrial and recreational activities in new combination, these projects seek to radically expand the definition of the London park. The city is also facing increasing demands to relax the definition of its greenbelt, in order to accommodate much needed new housing. This session will consider the hotly debated future of the territories that lie on the boundary between London and its surrounding countryside.


14.00: Suburbia and the New Life: Reflections on the Essexodus
Patrick Wright | Gillian Darley | Ken Worpole

This session will consider some of the ideas, both idealistic and pragmatic, that have driven and shaped the exodus from London since the 1890s. Using examples from the city’s north-east, we will consider both the informal visions of self-sufficiency informing many of the”plotland” developments of the early twentieth century, and also the larger scale exercises of contingency planning and architectural programming that have produced such places as Romford Garden City (1910-11), Harlow New Town (early 1950s) and South Woodham Ferrers (late 1970s).

15.00 Future of Housing in the Periphery
Wouter Vanstiphout | Michelle Provoost

You can tell a lot about a city from its edges. The periphery can be a test bed for social and urban experimentation but also a challenging territory fraught with tension and socioeconomic challenges. In this session Wouter Vanstiphout and Michelle Provoost of the Rotterdam-based Crimson Architectural Historians, explore the potential of London’s edges drawing comparisons from their extensive experience working with European cities and a radical reading of London’s post-riot landscape.

17.00 Will Self in discussion with Hanif Kureishi
Hanif Kureishi’s The Buddha of Suburbia set the parameters for a new literary consideration of London’s peripheral areas, and established a new poetics of the outer-urban. In conversation with Will Self, another suburban Londoner, Kureishi will attempt to trace the lineaments of London’s suburban consciousness over the past four decades.

19.00 The Inbetweeners Screening and Q&A
Iain Morris | Damon Beesley

A selected episode of the The Inbetweeners will be introduced by the writers Iain Morris and Damon Beesley who will also take part in a Q&A session after the screening. Set in dull suburbia, the hit Channel 4 comedy The Inbetweeners follows the lives (and embarrassing antics) of four schoolmates Will, Simon, Neil & Jay as they grapple with adolescence. The comedy ran for three series before reaching the big screen in two hugely successful films.

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