Teenager playing basketball in a park

People

Newham Youth Map explores the borough through young people’s eyes

Getting to know the area just became easier thanks to the Newham Youth Map. Developed by young people from the borough, the map is sharing unsung gems and taking on Google Maps – grassroots style.

Maps can be deceiving, explains Youssef, one of the creators of Newham Youth Map. Take a look at Greenland, for example. Zoom right out on Google Maps and it looks about the same size as Africa. But this impression isn’t just slightly misleading: it’s way, way out. A 3D globe will give you the real answer: Greenland has less than 10% of the land area of the African continent.

Newham also has a mapping problem: if you search “youth”, it looks like there’s hardly anything there. Youssef exclaims, “That was not representative of what we all know! Because we don’t just sit around doing nothing.” He was one of six young people who have together created the map to address this impression, “We tried to incorporate everyone’s local knowledge into our map to make it as diverse and interesting and jam-packed with information as possible.”

We tried to incorporate everyone’s local knowledge into our map to make it as diverse and interesting and jam-packed with information as possible.

Youssef, co-creator of Newham Youth Map

Entrance to RDLAC Mosaic of a tree

RDLAC

Royal Docks Learning and Activity Centre is a North Woolwich Institution. Photos: Sam Bush and Tian Khee Siong.

Hailing from organisations including Youth Empowerment, Headstart and Fight for Peace, the group behind the map collaborated with UCL’s Connected Environments team and One Newham to compile this impressive directory. Built for young people, by young people, it brings Newham to life as a place with plenty to explore.

Look closely at the Royal Docks, for example. A scattering of pink, brown and green location spots appear. They’re pinpoints for parks, creative arts spaces and youth organisations. It includes Caramel Rock, a fashion and creative arts education charity, and an East London institution.

Further afield blues, reds and purples correspond to sports venues, libraries and events. Click on one of them and you’re met with photos and contact info. Click on another and there’s a clip of someone speaking about their love for the location.

Group of young people in Fight for Peace t-shirts

Fight for Peace, pre-pandemic

Read our interview about how this club is beating lockdown isolation.

Mapping isn’t just about celebration, it also has the power to open doors. Tom Bayley from Newham Council’s Youth Empowerment says, “There wasn’t an effective way of searching for youth activities in Newham... Lack of opportunity can often come from a lack of knowledge of what might be available to you, so initiatives such as this can go a long way to increasing accessibility for young people in Newham.”

The team used Memory Mapper, an open-source toolkit, to create the map. Leah Lovett from UCL’s Connected Environments team said, “All maps tell their own story; the conventional organisation of the global map with Europe at the centre reveals a colonial spatial imaginary, for instance. The Memory Mapper toolkit allows people to tell their own spatial stories in ways that may challenge those dominant narratives.”

There’s stuff around the corner from my house that I never even knew was there! That’s why the map’s a great resource.

Tekai, co-creator of Newham Youth Map

While the researchers shared their knowledge of mapping, learning went both ways. Leah comments, “As researchers, we learnt so much from the young people. Two of the participants were using screen readers to access the sessions, and their feedback led to us developing a text only interface for the software. Without the young people sharing their knowledge with us, that simply wouldn’t have happened.”

Even when a neighbourhood feels familiar, you can still miss a trick or two. As mapmaker Tekai says, “There’s stuff around the corner from my house that I never even knew was there! That’s why the map’s a great resource and it’s going to help a lot of people.” Head to www.newhamyouthmap.co.uk and get to know Newham through someone else’s eyes.


Newham Youth Map was created by Irshad, Youssef, Mariana, Tekai, Kanye, and Bisi, working with Newham Council’s Public Health team, One Newham and University College London. Photo at top: Royal Victoria Gardens, photo by Sam Bush.

Park scene with trees and football goals

Royal Victoria Gardens

Photo: Tian Khee Siong