Doing it Ourselves

Doing it Ourselves: Imagining Better Childcare was displayed at The Mill, a busy community centre in Walthamstow from July - September 2019. The vibrant exhibition printed on cardboard combined oral history, photography, physical artefacts and film with interactive elements made by and for young children. In 2020 On the Record and volunteers won the Women's History Network's Community Prize for the project.

Doing it Ourselves shared the history of the First Neighbourhood Co-operative Nursery. In the late 1970s, a group of parents and toddlers came together to create a place to play and meet at Harmony Hall, Walthamstow. After years of organising a drop-in playgroup, lots of fun, laughter and hard work, a unique childcare project was born. The First Neighbourhood Co-operative Nursery opened on Verulam Avenue in 1986. It was run by parents and paid staff, who worked together to provide high quality childcare and education for their children.

Doing it Ourselves: the First Neighbourhood Co-operative Nursery was an oral history project run by On the Record and Eva Turner from 2018 -19. The project culminated in an exhibition held at The Mill Community Centre in Walthamstow. To consult the full archive please visit Bishopsgate Institute.

The project was supported by the National Lottery Heritage Fund and the London Borough of Waltham Forest. 


Exhibition design by Yinka Danmole

Text by Rosa Schling, edited by Ruth Goldsmith

Portrait photography by Szilvia Geiger, Fatimah Zahmoul and Wiktoria Sniadowska, supported by Sophie Polyviou

Curatorial assistance from Isabelle Kinsella and Sophie Polyviou

Interviews with:

Adrienne Leonard, Andrew Seddon, Barbara De Lissandri, Cristina Franchi, Dorothy Shepherd, Elizabeth Winter, Hilary Wykurz, Indra Southgate, Jackie Fulton, James Dudley Hart, Liz Muniandy, Mary Burnett, Norma Dudley, Olive Kane, Pauline France, Ros Kane, Roy Pickering, Saroj Tailor, Siva Muniandy, Veronica Pickering.


Althea Phoenix, Eva Turner, Fatimah Zahmoul, Gabriella Secova, Isabelle Kinsella, Linda Mezaks, Luisa Petti, Pauline France, Ruth Goldsmith, Sadie Hough, Szilvia Geiger, Tara Burgin, Wiktoria Sniadowska, Zoe Gibbons

Archive donors:

Pauline France, Norma Dudley, Barbara De Lissandri, Eva Turner, Liz and Siva Muniandy, Saroj Tailor, Mary Burnett, Jackie Fulton, Paul Davy and Helen Collier.

Thank you to Bishopsgate Institute Special Collections and Archives, The Mill, Sir George Monoux College and Leyton Sixth Form College and our funders.

All photographs by Sophie Polyviou

Cecil the Caterpillar made in pre-school workshops during the exhibition.