The Squalor of Wheatstone on Screen, 1975
Pastels, 80 x 57 "
The Whole Scheme Represents A 21st Century Slum, 1975
Pastels, 82 x 58 "
Two drawings from the past or are they storyboards for a future film? I never can quite tell about the journey of an art work and how it might be transposed or riffed upon once it leaves the studio. But what is the backstory?
Over the past decade, I've had the unique privilege and challenge of working on art projects that have documented the vibrancy, celebrated the architectural history and explored (or exposed) "regeneration" that has impacted on estates in North Kensington.
My mainstay has been Silchester Estate where I found my feet, had a studio flat and made my first deep connection with residents. I thank them for the support and creativity they have shared with me over the years.
The projects at Silchester include: Latymer Mapping Project (2012-13) in collaboration with group+work, V&A Museum Artist in Residence (2014-15) and Art For Silchester (2018-20).
I have also had a "career" defining sojourn at Lancaster West Estate and Grenfell Tower (2015-16).
And this year, I have been welcomed on the Wornington Estate to assist in making a film called The Wornington Word - A People's History of the Wornington Estate as the estate is being completely knocked down and replaced by a new housing development called Portobello Square.
I recently came across two archive documents from 1975.
First up, a newspaper clipping titled The Squalor of Wheatstone on Screen. This has inspired the narrative drawings above that flow down on the left channel.
"Stark shocking facts of appalling housing degradation and deprivation that is now a way of life for many North Kensington residents has been dramatically illustrated. The scene was a gathering of Wheatstone tenants who were witness to a video recording of the squalor and health hazards that most of them knew only too well.
A 20-minute documentary revealed the decaying state of the Wheatstone area - infestations of germ-carrying mice, dilapidated ceilings, rotten 'death-trap' flooring and overspill urine running down the walls.
The screening of the insight into the ghetto land was made by the Wheatstone Residents' Association who borrowed video equipment in a bid to speed up and nudge the Council into redeveloping the area.
This was the aim and purpose of Mrs Leq-Roy's documentary who did not only the production but the interviewing as well; a disturbing but professional chronicle of life in Wheatstone which any T.V. company would have been proud of."
Secondly, illustrating the right hand channel drawings, we have an RBKC Council Environmental Plan note. This was written at the same time as Mrs Leq-Roy's film is being screened. It conveys the thoughts of the council representatives who are overseeing the Murchison Road Development that will become Wornington Estate.
"Herewith are a set of drawings for Murchison Road showing the way Chapman Taylor have modified the scheme following Committee's comments. Could I have your obs. please. My own views are that... the whole scheme still represents a 21st century slum."
"Having had the unique opportunity of being able to view a finished block, it should be obvious that it is an architectural disaster and to repeat this form all over North Ken will be a Planning Disaster!"
It should be noted that in the narrative drawings we have Mrs Leq-Roy filming a mouse-ridden cooker as a "seven-year old girl drug addict - so badly affected by the conditions that she was hooked on sleeping pills" is trying to sleep under a line of damp clothes.
In the companion image, we have the lead architect of Wornington Estate, Jane Durham (1930-2019), with her vision of the estate, being challenged by the builders and the council.
This might be a first. Residents make a campaigning film to have their houses demolished and built as part of the estate redevelopment. At the same moment, members of the council are stigmatising the estate being built as an architectural disaster, a slum in the making. Such an irony - only in North Kensington, I hear some locals mutter!
If it still exists, I would really like to track down and screen this film made by residents in 1975. Can anyone help me?
If successful, this would be the third film I've unearthed from private archives or collections and brought back to the community of North Kensington.
In 2010, I got permission from John Laing to use excerpts from Western Avenue Extension (1970) in my film, Flood Light and the Laing film about the building of the Westway has now been added to the Westway Development Trust archive.
In 2019, I contacted Robin Imray, to screen his wonderful short film made in 1974 about the campaign to save the bath and wash house on Silchester Road. This was screened as part of a curated programme at the Portobello Film Festival called Washing Dirty Linen In Public.
We walk in the cracks of archives, buildings, institutions - where stories and films need to be reclaimed!
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