An arts-led social history project involving artists, heritage professionals, community groups and the residents of the Gascoigne Estate in Barking, East London and supported by the Heritage Lottery Fund.
This project has been very close to my heart. From meeting with Studio 3 Arts and recognising true people working at the best of their professional abilities, to discovering Barking, the Gascoigne Estate and their residents, and putting together a written proposal to create opportunities to work, volunteer and capture the social history of a housing estate in the middle of a tough regeneration period, I knew that I was working on something that would resonate with me on a deeply emotional level. I grew up down the A13 in Bow and this would feel like the Far East to me as a teenager. But thanks to the slow creep of gentrification across the east of London, boroughs such as Barking & Dagenham are discovering the difficulties in providing social housing for local residents in a borough that struggles with a high turnover of tenants. As local authorities look to housing associations (such as East Thames) to produce the capital to redevelop failing housing estates, the new flats will be offered for private rentals and sales, thereby reducing the number of flats available to those who live in the area already. As you can imagine, these are anxious times for many people in the borough, a reflection of the housing crisis that has most of London in it’s grip.
Over a period of 18 months, we captured stories and recorded them for future generations, we offered a space to celebrate the here and now, and we made artworks from the clay that was dug from the local earth. Children, parents and residents all helped to contribute to snapshot of a housing estate as it slowly rebuilds itself into a new living quarter and the majority are keen for this to happen. We told these changes through objects, photos, film, soundscapes, poetry and talks during the Open House Weekend 2016 and invited the public to participate at a symposium with arts and heritage professionals, local regeneration officers and resident and poet John Akinde. The turnout was amazing and the active participation of local residents showed how important and relevant this project has been to the discourse of arts engagement in issues of housing and active citizenship.