There is a hidden migration taking place in the UK, a forced migration, the result of inner city regeneration introducing private property onto council estates and the process which have come to be known as gentrification, associated with rent increases to small business and private dwellings alike set against the backdrop of a spiraling housing market.
While it doesn’t evoke the fever of the headlines about international migration since the discovery of Aylan Kurdi’s limp and lifeless little body, face down in the sand, it nevertheless causes misery, discontent, alarm and distress. The Housing Act passed in 2016 replacing lifetime tenancies with temporary ones is only likely to add to this.
Although the housing crisis is now headline news the personal costs are often hidden. It is estimated that 1000 families per week are being moved out of London as this is the only option local authorities are able to offer them, sometimes as far afield as Birmingham or Manchester. These families, often vulnerable are ripped away from support networks and everything that is familiar to them. This is not merely a scene in I, Daniel Blake, this is real and it’s happening now.
Struggles to defend community in these contexts are arguably a humanitarian act. Those of the Focus E15 mothers and New Era residents have met with some success. Cressingham Gardens in South West London, a highly diverse, high density, low rise, low crime estate of 306 properties in ten blocks has been described by some as the jewel in Lambeth’s Crown, yet along with five other estates in Lambeth it faces regeneration.
For the many people that traverse it’s winding paths or visit it’s blooming gardens the first response to the news that it faces demolition is that it must be a mistake, surely a slip of the bureaucratic pen. The struggle to maintain the estate has been a heroic one including a victory at the High Court but still it’s future hangs in the balance.
Cressingham Voices is a writing project which aims to respond to the very difficult situation of living with fear and uncertainty about the future. To attempt to depict how residents are living and loving in these circumstances and enable residents to express their voice, to explore their memories and record our feelings about home, community and belonging and their experiences living in this situation.
The outcome of this project will be called 306 (working title) a document produced in these contexts and will reference the history of the area, explore memory, the meaning of home and belonging in a beautifully illustrated, perfect bound book, issued as a limited edition. It will include the work of writer in residence Anne E Cooper and residents from Cressingham Gardens. The book will be launched in June 2017. Cressingham Voices invites you to celebrate with us and enjoy the power of our words.