Blackfriars in the 1970s

SE1 Stories woman making a point at a public meeting

Community action in a London neighbourhood

A chance discovery of thousands of photographs in the archives of a London council has brought back to life a local community’s fight for survival and a new exhibition opening 29 October is telling the story.

The exhibition features an extraordinary period of community action in the 1970’s and 80s in Blackfriars, Waterloo and North Southwark along London’s South Bank. For many it was a fight for survival as businesses moved out and land was earmarked for office development leaving isolated communities struggling to maintain their way of life.

“A timely exhibition around the effectiveness of community campaigning in the 70s and 80s as the area continues to face development pressures” said George Nicholson, one of the leading campaigners of those times and still a local resident.

It was a period of huge empowerment for local residents. Campaigns, protests and direct action were the tools to force local authorities and developers to recognise the communities’ needs.

Estate tenants formed associations to negotiate with their landlords and community groups flourished. There were great successes at Coin Street with new housing, the Colombo Street Sports Centre and the saving of important facilities like chemists, post offices and launderettes.

You can see Blackfriars SE1 in the 1970s from:

Tuesday 16th November - 20th December at Barry Till Gallery, Morley College, 61 Westminster Bridge Road, London, SE1 7HT.

Open 9am to 8pm weekdays, 9am to 4pm Saturday. Nearest underground station Lambeth North. 

The exhibition is presented by SE1 Stories, an umbrella group of people who were active in the campaigns in the 1970s and 80s. The group came together in 2019 when

thousands of photographs were discovered in the archives of Southwark and Lambeth councils.

Many were taken by members of the group for SE1 Newspaper, a monthly paper produced by and for the local community. Many more come from the innovative Blackfriars Photography Project that gave people the equipment and skills to be photographers.

The exhibition focuses on the area around Blackfriars Road as part of Southwark Council’s Blackfriars Stories initiative. SE1 Stories plans to present more exhibitions to highlight the rich stories of community action in Waterloo, North Southwark and Bermondsey.

More photographs and images from the exhibition are available. Evening and weekend opening hours will be on the website.

SE1 Stories acknowledges the support and assistance of the following without whom this exhibition would not have been possible:

  • Southwark Council’s Blackfriars Stories initiative (main funding)
  • Jack Carter Architects (exhibition design)
  • Unit 22 Modelmakers (exhibition stands)
  • Blackfriars Settlement
  • Southwark Archives
  • Lambeth Archives

A timely exhibition around the effectiveness of community campaigning in the 70s and 80s as the area continues to face development pressures.

George Nicholson, leading campaigner and local resident.

Contact SE1 Stories