Artistic and Socio-Educational Workshops and Activities for Children and Young People in Situations of Vulnerability in the Bellvitge-Gornal Neighbourhood, Barcelona.
Project location: SPAIN, Bellvitge-Gornal, L’Hospitalet (Barcelona)
Project start date: January 2017 - Project end date: December 2017
Project number: 2016-072
District VI in L'Hospitalet de Llobregat (Barcelona) is made up of two neighbourhoods – El Gornal and Bellvitge – physically separated by the tracks of the Catalan regional railway system. Like much of Barcelona's metropolitan area, the Bellvitge-El Gornal neighbourhoods have been stigmatised, largely because of the persistence of a popular imaginary based on the situation in which they were built in the 1960s to deal with mass migration processes, resulting in slums and harsh living conditions.
El Gornal has an estimated population of 7,205 inhabitants, of which around 15% are of Roma origin. Bellvitge has around 26,000 inhabitants. El Gornal public school has become one of the few ghetto-schools, with Roma students making up 98% of its student body (according to 2010 data in the 2012 report of the Mario Maya Foundation on the segregation of Roma students in Spain).
Against this backdrop, in 2012 LaFundició opened a permanent centre in one of the semi-basements in the housing blocks in Bellvitge, in a building managed by the Social Welfare department, where the residents (mostly Roma and Arab and South American immigrants) live in sociocultural and financial situations that require the intervention of social services. The main objective of the centre run by LaFundició is to create on open structure that allows local residents to actively engage in artistic projects that improve the living conditions of the community.
Roma neighbours from the block tend to use public space intensively. They carry out their day-to-day lives on the street, on the pavements and green zones in front of the entrance to the building. This is particularly so in the case of the children. This puts off the rest of the community, and often becomes the source of conflicts and complaints by other residents. The local Roma community sees the space as almost an extension of public space: they come downstairs, knock on the door, go in, walk around, leave, come back again, draw on the blackboard wall, stretch out on the floor, play... at the same time, LaFundició's team has started to join them out on the street: to paint, to measure, to do interviews. Paths cross in the lobby, on the street corners... and these uses of space are negotiatied, particularly when they are shared with other people, and gradually reaching agreements, understandings.
The organisations that work with the Roma community in District VI, L'Hospitalet include public bodies (Social Welfare projects and the urban programme implemented in El Gornal in 2010-2013) and private entities such as the Fundació Secretariado Gitano and the Lachó Bají Calí Association. They mainly follow two very specific lines of work: job insertion and assistance for families in regard to housing and food. In the case of children, the program is addressed at dealing with school absenteeism.
Meanwhile, the informal socioeducational projects in the local area are linked to the church: La Vinya Foundation (https://sites.google.com/site/fundaciolavinya/), run by the Jesuits, and the Esclat Centre (http://www.esclat.org/), run by Teresian nuns. The municipal programmes that they implement at Centre Obert are strongly paternalistic, a legacy of the sociocultural policies of the 1980s that led these institutions to settle in outlying working class neighbourhoods such as Bellvitge-El Gornal.
The late 1970s and early 1980s is precisely when sociocultural spaces for young people began to spring up – open centres and associations such as community centers and leisure centers – and set up agreements and partnerships with government bodies, working jointly to offer support to populations considered to be at risk of social exclusion. That was when the idea that the streets – which had been the main space of socialisation for children and young people – are a dangerous place began to take hold. Consequently, it became necessary to create regulated, standardised spaces where children's and teenager's leisure time could be managed and controlled by adults, specifically by a series of professionals and specialists: educators and social workers, leisure educators, street educators, leisure coordinators and supervisors, etc.
Looking at it from a different point of view, these control mechanisms significantly reduced the autonomy of children and young people and their capacity to self-organise their leisure time and their ways of inhabiting the territory.
It should also be noted that many neighbourhoods in the 1960s and 1970s were not yet urbanised: this meant that children and young people had numerous undefined spaces such as vacant blocks, tips, and building sites in which to play freely, without being conditioned by official urban design criteria.
As for projects that introduce more creative approaches with the aim of promoting new socio-educational situations, two had been carried out in the area: “Gypsy Voices” (which used radio as a means to promote dialogue around the Roma community) and the urban art festival “Nos sobra mucho arte en El Gornal”.
In this context, the project, which received a grant from the Nando Peretti Foundation, Delegació a Catalunya, aims to introduce a new line of work, specifically by:
a) introducing contemporary art as a tool;
b) working with the children in the space of the streets, wich is a space of learning and community interaction.
This idea of the street as a space of socialisation, where play and creative activities can take place, and knowledge can be created and shared, contrasts with the way official providers of education and support to children and young people see the street. For example, the “about” section of the Centre Esclat website says: “Esclat was born in January 1978 in response to a very specific need: the Bellvitge neighbourhood was ten years old, with a large population of children and teenagers who roamed the streets as the easiest option available after school.” The street was thus seen as a dangerous, non-productive space that young people had to be kept away from.
The target group for the direct intervention comprises 50 families residing in Blocs 11 and 13. The activities will also be open and be linked to other educational facilities in the neighbourhood, as part of official school and after-school activities, so that the scope of the activities will impact on around 150 children and young people.
The aims are as follows:
To improve the perception of Bloc 11 and 13, Carrer Prat, in the eyes of the rest of the neighbourhood.
To improve the public space around the entrance of Blocks 11 and 13, Carrer Prat.
To promote the role of children as active agents in cultural and urban creation, and to explore identities that break down stereotypes and reduce risk situations, through socio-educational activities
To promote dialogue and strengthen networks among organisations, associations, local residents, formal and informal groups, and local children, promoting the creation of social inclusion networks.
To promote the social projection of the Roma and migrant communities through the children's activities, and to promote mutual understanding and recognition among different cultural and social groups.
To engage in critical reflection on the role of children in the construction of the city, and to intervene in public space.