Monday, 4 October 2010
Last week, Steph from the Little London Observationist and I went to visit the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle. We went on seperate occasions and both had the same sense of sadness, forboding and little-bit-of-fear to report on our return to the populated world. We both encountered the police while we were there (although they didn't try to move us on) and we both photographed the now mostly derelict estate, because that's what we do.
You can see Steph's photographs here.
As for mine...
I first learned about the Heygate while I was working in Elephant and Castle for 6 months earlier this year. Sitting in a classroom high up in a tower block right in the centre of the area all day every day, I found myself staring out of the window at the giant, sprawling and monolithic grey building right opposite, that seemed to stretch on to the horizon, and always had fresh, colourful graffiti on the roof. Every day I wondered what it was and what it's story was.
It wasn't until I left and began working elsewhere that I found out about the Heygate, Elephant and Castle's ongoing regeneration project and the story of the 1,000+ families that had been steadily moved off the estate over the past years in preparation for the day the entire place would be demolished.
I learned that a handful of families are still living there, refusing to move out, while the rest of the place is gradually boarded up around them. I learned that most of the blocks there are now sealed off with giant metal plates. And so of course I had to go.
Walking round Heygate is very sad. The entire place feels like a ghost town, and it is. On the day that I go, it's cloudy and deserted. Dilapidation and ruin are all around me but if you look very closely you can still see signs of life, a past life, when the Heygate was still a home.
And that's what I'm interested in.
In particular, the graffiti, signs and personal effects that have been left behind. And on one landing, the word 'Harry' scrawled in black letters across the ceiling, maybe a memento leftover from when Harry Brown was filmed there in 2009.
The strangest thing of all is coming across a flat that's still occupied. Lights on, curtains hanging in the windows, a car outside and maybe a TV blaring. It must be pretty lonely living amid all that nothing.
But if you can make it to the top of one of the big blocks like Claydon or Ashenden, the view is amazing.
More photographs of the Heygate at Iris Jones on Flickr