14 Dec Life in a co-op!
Funny to say that one of the greatest challenges I have put myself into, was to change my ‘Kensington life’ for a housing co-op in New Cross Gate. It pleases me to see the confusion in the eyes of people whom I tell my story to. ( And even more the look in their eyes when they come to visit me!)
Sanford is the first housing co-op purpose-built in the 70’s in UK. The first idea was for it to be run by students, as a solution for single students’ housing in those times. In over 35 years, Sanford has had different phases and a variety of people living there. From punks to teachers, with a large amount of artists, alternative and creative professionals, people here are from everywhere around the world. Some people have been here since the co-op was created over 35 years ago, but there is a reasonable rotation and opportunities to join Sanford.
The 14 houses and 6 flats accommodate around 130 people in this charming private street, with a landscape art building that is a recycled stage made of railway slippers and at the same time is a bike shed. The garden also includes a ‘magical corner’ with ponds, exotic plants and fish.
Sanford is a model for lifestyle praising sustainable living with the project C60, reducing in 60% carbon emissions for ambient heating and hot water. The houses are equipped with sensor lighting and saving energy bulbs. In 2008 all the kitchens were renovated and they use recycled glass tops and have special bins for compost waste.
The toxic soil was also transformed and today there is ‘permaculture’ incentive and a growing food bank in the back of the buildings. Training for ‘aquaponics’ techniques has been run for some members of the co-op and the place is a great ground for researches and tests on sustainable living, environmental responsibility and social development.
The efforts to survive with a community spirit are very much the reason that brings people to live here. From the selection process for living in Sanford to the monthly membership meetings and the artistic projects, all decisions are discussed and everyone has the right to give their opinion regarding issues and actions.
Every summer Sanford organise social and cultural events to interact with the local communities and in 2009 the ‘FolkUs’ festival attracted around 1000 people for a full day of activities, performances and music for all ages.
Lately, Sanford has attracted the eyes of the media, gaining two great features: one on The Guardian and the other in TimeOut Magazine in 2009.
Life is a cosmopolitan and over populated London can become too individual and sometimes a lonely place. Living in Sanford is the kind of experience that shows you that different ways of living are possible.