Having a chat with... Layla

Who best to tell you how diverse the local area is than some of the people that make its fabric?

Layla Conway works as a Communities Manager for London Legacy Development Corporation (LLDC) and has witnessed nearly a decade of change across Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park.

A born-and-bred Hackney resident, Layla works with the park’s wide-ranging communities, making sure that young people’s voices are heard by creating opportunities for them to play a role in the Park’s future.

We caught up with Layla to hear about the changes she’s witnessed since 2012, what makes the Park unique and her hopes for its future.

You’ve seen a lot of change since the 2012 Olympics, what do you remember about those first few years following the Games?

In the immediate aftermath, everyone was on such a high because the Games had been such success and captured the nation.

Initially, there was some resistance to the park closing, but people had quickly forgotten that before the Games this wasn’t an area where people would naturally visit there were many derelict industrial buildings and the green spaces were not what we can see today.

Now we’re realising the opportunities that are created for local people and the benefits they bring, with jobs alongside community centres, libraries and schools, which are massive assets to the community.

We’ve also seen a lot of local people buying homes across the park they want to be part of history too, living in the legacy of the London 2012 Olympics.

How important is it to give local communities a say in the park’s future?

As a Hackney resident, I feel very connected to East London and I’m really excited by the opportunities that regeneration can bring.

I’m passionate about communities and young people they’re the future of this place and the ones who will drive it forward for years to come.

A key part of my work is making sure that whatever is being created homes, businesses or social facilities has been designed for them too, as they will have an integral role in the area’s future success.

I think we’ve done a great job developing interim uses across the Park; we’ve already delivered great community projects like Hub 67, a mobile food garden and sports pitches and equipment, and there’s more of this to come.

The Legacy Youth Voice initiative has also been a great success. Some people have been involved in this for 12 years now and have had an integral role shaping how things look today. Youth ownership and a sense of belonging is something to be really proud of.

What do you hope the next ten years look like?

The Park’s emerging as a new piece of London, and there’s been a huge amount of investment in the places and people that call it home.

For me, we will be judged on how the park becomes stitched into the wider community. I want it to continue to grow into somewhere that becomes rooted with its own sense of place, whilst contributing to the rest of the regeneration taking place across East London.

With East Bank expected to bring an additional 1.5m visitors to the park each year, I want to see local people being part of this growth and proud of their role in it.

We thought long and hard about how to build these homes, and we want families to move here and stay here.

East London is a place of invention, where new things are tried and tested. If today’s young people are at the heart of it 10 years from now, we’ve done our job correctly.

What do you love about the area?

The fact we’re surrounded by waterways is an incredible asset. There’s a real sense of vibrancy and energy here, it’s so mixed and so diverse. In Hackney Wick you really feel that people can be themselves.

Aerial shot (c) Queen Elizabeth Olympic Park

Photo (c) Rahil Ahmed