It’s great not to make a big song and dance about the ‘What is the sound of Deptford Listening Walk’ especially as we walked the streets of the area together in silence. Any song and dance would have only taken away from that quality of silent listening to the area we know well. Sometimes you hear what you know you will hear (the familiar chit-chat and banter from the market) and sometimes what you think you will hear, you don’t (the construction sites were quiet as we walked on a Saturday). Our ears were doing a lot of work, focusing in on details of local encounters, the tiny everyday interactions that come from community and the best parts of how we get along locally despite the everyday pressures. In that collective intention to listen and trying not to look so much, we hear together something unexpected, something beautiful that moves us – the guy who accidentally kicked over the accordion players money pot and returned sheepish to put a fiver in the pot. Or the car stereo that played ‘Everything’s gonna be alright’ as we all stood by the securely closed gates of development site Convoys Wharf!
But really the listening and the walking around Deptford, to those sites the group has chosen before hand as in some way a useful place to start the investigation of what the hell’s going on here, was only the chosen way of how to get a group to ask questions about what that ‘going on’ is? On return to Tidemill, we sat together and spent half an hour simply recording on paper our group answers to the question ‘What did you hear?’. From this outpouring, we realised that as well as here the presence of Deptford, we also are aware of the absence of what we can hear. What do we need to hear in the future? Who do we need to hear? What nuances are missing when we stand in a quiet gentrifying street? What conversations do we need to have with other locals? Who in the group can further these connections?
Not only did we find quite quickly agreements on what we had heard, we were able also to deal with differences round the table. It was asked what does it means to be ‘interested’ in gentrification? What is the difference between an ‘interest’ and being directly affected by the processes of displacement? We talked about the basic question that we always need in community working together – who are we round this table and how did we come to be here? By this we mean what stakes does anyone at the table have in the question at hand? By stakes we mean if you stop being interested in the question are you still faced with the pressures of that question or not? It was a gentle way in to understanding what we have in common around the table and what contradictions are also present from differences. It is often the case that those with the most to lose are the ones that introduce this question.
Listening together is simply a way to make an encounter between us. It’s also about learning together, from each other towards trying to work against the forces that are not benefiting our community. Listening as learning is a political act because when we talk about who has something at stake, something to lose, then we sit squarely together in politics, in solidarity, in trying to change things.