UPDATE: BBC One are screening a documentary film made about the redevelopment of The West Hendon Estate. It’s called “The Estate We’re In” and it will be broadcast at 10.45pm on Tuesday 15th March 2016. Details here – http://www.bbc.co.uk/programmes/p03lxk60
I have been interested in large-scale regeneration projects in the UK for a number of years and have explored this visually through my on-going series Speculate Regenerate. I have recently embarked on a sideline project and co-founded a new charitable company called Our Yard with three other local residents in my neighbourhood. Our mission is to protect and restore a set of Victorian farm buildings which were threatened with demolition under the Brent Cross Cricklewood regeneration. Although our focus is on the restoration of these historic buildings, we are also very interested in the impacts (both short and long-term) of regeneration projects on existing communities. In August 2015, Our Yard was commissioned to document the stories of residents living in the West Hendon Estate, NW London – an area currently undergoing a controversial regeneration scheme led by Barnet Council and Barratt Homes. Our remit was to create a space for local residents to talk openly about their lives on the estate – which brought up stories of belonging, community, resistance and the prospect of a painful uprooting as a result of the regeneration. The project has resulted in a book of photos and interviews and will hopefully lead to a larger more in-depth series in the future.
I have focussed my Speculate Regenerate project primarily on the built environment and the visible signs of regeneration – boarded up homes, brutalist council housing estate architecture in various states of disrepair and demolition, empty homes in Liverpool. The approach I have taken is not due to a lack of interest in the human stories but because the standard justification for regeneration and the demolition of homes has usually centred around the inadequacy of the built environment, be it Victorian terraced houses in Anfield or massive housing blocks in the Elephant and Castle.
This project in West Hendon is a very different body of work – focusing on portraits, the use of existing family photos and interviews with residents about life on the estate. Despite a different approach, there is an important link, for me at least, between the two main facets of regeneration – the ‘renewal’ of the built environment (both positive and negative), and the demolition of homes, the ‘decanting’ of existing communities and the impact this has on people’s lives.
This project in West Hendon is not a record of every life on the Estate. To all intents and purposes it is just a snapshot in time. The faces of residents and the stories they tell are an insight into what it is like to live in a home and area deemed to be unfit for purpose and in need of regeneration. It is a study of a community being dismantled and dispersed. The details of each story are unique to each individual, family and location, but the themes contained within them are common to regeneration schemes up and down the country. It is Our Yard’s hope that this project at West Hendon may lead to similar projects within London and more specifically will include a documentary about the people affected by The Brent Cross Cricklewood regeneration – one of the largest in London and set to last for over 15 years.