Then There Was Us

My Yard captures the last remaining moments on a London council estate

2022-04-05 – Feature

Community, Charity, Workshop

Council estates are social housing projects which ignite an array of different communities across Britain. The fabric of life in British culture and often intelligent architecture that still weaves itself into modern day projects. My Yard is a documentation of the last remaining months on a British council estate in South Harrow, London.

In 2016 the British government launched a plan to demolish 100 of the largest run-down and difficult to manage council estates in the UK. Whilst campaigners urged the government to restore the estates by “regenerating and intensifying”, demolition was mostly favoured. 

This is often the story for council estates in the UK in recent years. Demolition often offers the chance for private companies to rebuild “affordable housing” that they can then profit off. For the tenants who live on the existing council estates, life is often filled with insecurity. Demolition is a labour intensive process and one that comes at a cost of time. As tenants are moved out of their houses and displaced to other areas making it difficult for travel to work and school, communities are usually separated and broken forever. 

This is the story for the Grange Farm Estate in South Harrow. Whilst 282 flats face demolition, they will be replaced at some cost and time, with only 216 social houses being rebuilt in its former place. Whilst some residents were in favour of the new development, others feared for their communities future. 

The Grange Farm Estate project unites a community and gives children a chance to build a lasting legacy of their vanishing council estate, in the form of art. By the time this article is published, the estate as we know it has been knocked down and regenerated, most people moved on and many of its community separated. 

My Yard joined Grange Farm primarily to bring surplus food for the community, to rescue from landfills. Welcomed by the residents this resulted in bbq’s, youthwork, friendships, gardening, sports, Food markets and more. They helped each other through lockdowns and the youth created a ‘Changemaker’ network. Art soon took over the grey boards of regeneration and sports took over the play areas. It was here that the charity met photographer and creative director Henry Gorse and Henry brought in a series of industry professionals to put on creative workshops to inspire and encourage creativity, embracing a DIY approach using a variety of accessible and upcycled materials.

With the young change makers using disposable cameras and sharing Henry’s medium format camera they all worked together to create a series of incredible images which reflected the community of grange farm estate through the young people's eyes.

As art seems to lend itself to the middle classes as a subject usually reliant on contacts and expensive equipment, we fear what art has become. “When you remove all these barriers this book is evident that the talent and creativity is there. It's about having the chance and opportunity to find and focus on it. The results I think you will agree are incredible.” says Henry. As the government plans to cut arts funding and as creative subjects become a luxury affordable, we can all agree that we need less individualism and more creative projects involving the community. 

“The idea is about giving the young people a platform to express themselves and tell their own stories.” 

Working class art collectives such as Shy Bairns Get Nowt, Lungs, Working Class Creatives Database and Roughcaste provide platforms for upcoming artists.

Thank you for reading

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