First off I found it really interesting , when we arrived it was dusk -starting to get dark. I felt that peoples responses to the area changed as it grew darker.
Its also very clear that peoples perceptions of the area with the underpasses vary from "I've never had any trouble here in 3.5 years " to " your shouldnt be hanging around here its really dangerous". I am really curious as to why some people have one perception of this place verses the other.
One thing ive come up with is the time of day, commuters who do not live in the area and who pass through feel safe, but people who live there and maybe have to use it as a way to get home after an evening out felt more threatened.
One particular man I spoke to had some very strong responses to our questionnaire. In general the questions we were asking were," do you feel safe here" and "how would you change it".... He was the person who told me it was really "dodgy" there and I shouldn't be there.
This man said the area was frequented by polish drunks who hung around on the park benches, he said he had been attacked by them and feared for his life once. He told me he was a demolition worker and that he was finding it hard to get work as the polish people would do his job for alot less money. Im still unsure of how the conversation turned to race/ethnicity, but it did. His friend said that "we are in the minority around here now". I found this statement to be loaded. It would appear that perhaps this area is one of racial tension. I asked them would they vote for the BNP , they said maybe. Last night I watched the questiontime debate with Nick Griffin and Jack Straw et al, What came across to me was the ignorance of the mainstream politicians in dealing with peoples real honest concerns for immigration which has lead to the appeal of the BNP in disillusioned areas of racial tension. Is tolworth an area of such tension?
Although this might seem irrelevant, the task we have been set is to observe peoples rituals and habits. If one person feels threatened to a point which leads to him voting for a right wing fascist political party then what does that say about inner city living , tolworth, immigration and life.
Can we design integration?
Other people who felt threatened used words like "seclusion". They felt there was not enough people around to make them feel safer.
A bus driver spoke about colleagues being robbed in the underpasses but said that had not occurred since oyster cards had been introduced. Maybe money should become electronic? Its clear to see that less people are carrying cash, instead using credit or debit cards, I wonder has this influenced the instances of muggings?
Light was a huge factor, lamp posts that are there are not functioning. What a waste, why can these not be maintained? People said the police dont do anything about there concerns. Why? Under resourced perhaps?
All in all it was an interesting evening.