Hyperlocal collaboration aims to collect ‘house histories’ from community

By Hannah Scarbrough | 30th Aug 2016

A local tech start-up, a residents association and a hyperlocal publisher have joined forces to invite community members to tell the stories of their homes. The Bedford Park ‘House History’ project is described as an “online social-research project”, based in Chiswick, West London.

Living histories

The partnership brings together Bedford Park Residents Association (BRPA), tech start-up Chimni and hyperlocal news service, The Chiswick Calendar. Nigel Walley, Team Head at Chimni, is positive about the impact the project could have both on current residents and as a future archive: “It is encouraging residents to research the living histories of their own homes, and to upload them to a specially created online resource so that they can be searched and shared. The resulting system will be open to the public as an online history resource.”

The project found the perfect partner in The Chiswick Calendar, which celebrates the local area and its inhabitants, providing a rich digest of news, events and information. It is, Nigel describes, “the pre-eminent online cultural magazine for the Chiswick area.”

The collaboration will promote local history events and will invite community members to research their own ‘house histories’ on a voluntary basis. Eminent house historian Melanie Backe-Hansen launched the project and will lead a local history event organised by the project partners coming up later this month.

Residents’ ‘house histories’ are being turned into video case studies by The Chiswick Calendar and published on their site as well as on Bedford Park Residents’ Association. In this example, local resident Francis Cherry discusses his research into his family home, and how this has changed his perception of the property.

Mutual benefits

There is no external funding at the moment – instead the project offers mutual benefits for each partner, says Nigel: “The Residents Associations benefit from extra publicity and community status for their projects, through delivering the hyperlocal partner a body of enriched and comprehensive content for their site. For both parties, the initiative is fostering grass-roots journalism and, most importantly, accentuating the positive and creative work of Residents groups.”

For tech start-up Chimni, the project feeds into their wider initiative, ‘Smart Suburb’, which provides Residents Associations with website templates and “encourages them to publish stories and news”. So far eight residents associations have adopted the template, forming “a contiguous block of territory in Chiswick covered by linked associations and websites”.

It is hoped that the initiative will encourage community groups to come together online to solve shared issues, as well as inspire them to create their own stories which can be distributed through hyperlocal publishers.

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