Birmingham: Sparkbrook Association

In 1960’s Sparkbrook, many families were living in overcrowded houses and dangerous conditions. Many newer residents were migrants from India, Pakistan and the Caribbean and a 1967 report suggested that housing shortages led to racial conflict.

The conditions are cramped, the paper is falling off the walls, some of the electric wiring is uncovered and dangerous, and the only place the children can play is on the road…

Member of an Irish immigrant family with four children living in a two-roomed attic, Sparkbrook Newsletter, 1965

That’s where the Sparkbrook Association came in. This community-wide organisation believed that good welfare provision for all would lead to social justice and racial equality.

The Association’s impact was immense. They renovated properties, offered flats with affordable rent and provided liveable homes. But their impact didn’t stop there; they sought to improve community life on a broader scale. They created a discussion group, Citizens Advice Bureau, family centre, social clubs for the elderly, mental health clubs and mother and baby groups.

Knowing that children had nowhere to play apart from on the road, they also set up a play centre, summer schools and one of the UK’s first adventure playgrounds. Local children were even given an hour off school to test the new playground.

Local people recognised that community cohesion depended on tackling living conditions for all. That remains true today.

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