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Learn local history with the Balham to Tooting Bec Trail

Learn local history with the Balham to Tooting Bec Trail

| by Tooting Newsie | Posted in News, Events

Balham Tooting Bec Trail

Fresh out of the recording studio, an interesting, surprising and lively oral history podcast and hand-drawn map take urban explorers on an historical tour of Balham High Road.

Launched this April, the Balham to Tooting Bec Trail takes you on a journey from Balham to Tooting Bec station (and back again) as those who live and work in the borough relate their stories.

This half mile stretch of road is unique – home to the biggest block of flats in Europe, a protected pub and the only sewing machine museum in the world (probably). At the start of the 20th century, there was a tram station, a cinema and roller-skating rink and much more, but many properties were bombed during the WWII Blitz, and later replaced with buildings and flats. However, a number of individual and independent shops and restaurants remain and reflect the diversity and unique character of this neighbourhood, with every site having a story to tell.
So much can happen when a community full of diversity and passion comes together, as shown by the Neighbourhood Network SW12 and SW17 when they devised, designed and directed the Balham to Tooting Bec trail and podcast.

The Neighbourhood Network SW12 and SW17 is a community group run by and for people living or working between Balham and Tooting Bec, with the aim of extending and strengthening links to form a more cohesive community. The network wanted to find a way to bring both the new and long-standing residents together, while acknowledging the history of the area. With this in mind (and some welcome funding from the Battersea Power Station Spring Fund), the Balham to Tooting Bec Trail and podcast was born. Listening to Balham and Tooting residents talking about their neighbourhood lends a vivid record of the area, past and present – a powerful witness to life in this multi-cultural part of south west London.

The Balham to Tooting Bec Trail and podcast features 18 key sites along the old Roman Road, now Balham High Road, including: Irene House which was bombed by the IRA; Du Cane Court which opened in 1937 and is a masterpiece of art deco design; and Saint Mary's & St John the Divine Church which was planned and financed by a group which included William Wilberforce, a key advocate in the abolition of slavery. 

The podcast is accompanied by a detailed map designed by two local residents. Nathaniel Walters, an artist and filmmaker who took care of the graphic design, and artist Susie Brinton who adorned the map with illustrations.

The map and podcast can be downloaded via the Neighbourhood Network SW12 and SW17 website or SoundCloud. The map can also be picked up at local shops or the library on the Balham High Road.

Join the Neighbourhood Network members and the stars of the podcast on the inaugural walk – Saturday 28th April 2018 at 12pm in front of Irene House.  

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