Open Garden Estates is an initiative by Architects for Social Housing (ASH), a collective working to save London council estates under threat of demolition from Government housing policy, the Mayor’s building programme, local authority estate regeneration schemes and property developers.
Last year, Open Garden Estates was hosted by three council estates: Cressingham Gardens, designed by Ted Hollamby; Central Hill, by Rosemary Stjernstedt; and Knight’s Walk, by George Finch. All three estates are under threat of demolition by Lambeth Labour Council.
This year, over the weekend of 18-19 June, ASH is exporting Open Garden Estates across London, and a dozen estates have signed up, including Macintosh Court, Silchester and Lancaster West, Somerstown, Old Tidemill Gardens and Crossfields, Alton East and West, Ravensbury Grove, Warwick Road, Granville and Edmundsbury estates.
Open Garden Estates is an opportunity for the public to visit their green areas, communal spaces and private gardens, and dispel the myth of estates as ‘concrete jungles’, home to ‘troubled families’, ‘anti-social behaviour’ and ‘criminals’. It is in these terms that the Prime Minister has justified his plan to Blitz 100 so-called ‘sink estates’ across England and replace them with Starter Homes that are unaffordable for people on low incomes across 98 per cent of the country. And where the Conservative Government has led, London’s predominantly Labour councils have followed. Under the guise of regeneration, local authorities find it easier to demolish the estates they wish to redevelop as luxury apartments when – as at the Heygate and Aylesbury estates, to name only the two most notorious examples – they start by denigrating the communities that live in the homes they plan to demolish.
Open Garden Estates is a much-needed corrective to this widely held but deeply inaccurate characterisation of council housing. Walking tours of participating estates will show how well they have been designed, and allow visitors to meet the strong and socially mixed communities they are home to. The public will have trouble matching the concrete wastelands of popular perception with the green and leafy surroundings of Central Hill, Cressingham Gardens or Ravensbury Grove. Nor will they find the drug-taking benefit scroungers of Westminster’s feverish imagination in the vibrant communities of Silchester, Somerstown and Edmundsbury. Above all, Open Garden Estates is a chance for residents, local communities and supporters to meet and organise their campaigns to save these estates from becoming another victim of London’s housing crisis.
Architects for Social Housing offers:
– The truth about the regeneration process, information about the public and private bodies driving its attack on London’s social housing, and advice on how residents can fight against the threat it presents to their homes and lives.
– The truth about the Government’s Housing and Planning Act, what it means for London’s social housing, and what residents can do to oppose it.
– Support with building community campaigns, contacts with other estates facing demolition, the support of eviction resistance groups, as well as funding from a charitable trust for flyers, banners and stalls.
– Architectural design proposals that keep the existing community and its homes intact while increasing the number of homes on the estate by up to 50 per cent, and in doing so force councils to consider alternatives to demolition.
Open Garden Estates is a collective event hosted by the participating estates, whose communities interpret how to stage the day. In addition to the tours, activities this year include talks by residents, architects and campaigners; barbeque picnics and guerilla gardening; film screenings about the effects on residents of estate regeneration; a range of performances, including a puppet show, street orchestra and art workshops; exhibitions of paintings and photographs celebrating estate communities, as well as the architectural designs by Architects for Social Housing to save Central Hill estate:
Silchester & Lancaster West Estates, Lancaster Gate
Saturday: 12pm: walking tour / 2-4pm: exhibition / 3pm: walking tour.
Sunday: 12pm: walking tour / 12.30 picnic / 2-4pm: exhibition / 3pm: tour.
Warwick Road Estate, Kensington
Sunday: 12pm: international picnic / 3pm: gardener’s tour.
Somers Town, Camden
Saturday: 11-1pm: art workshop / 12pm: walking tour / 4pm: open debate.
Alton East and West Estates, Roehampton
Saturday: 11am: walking tour.
Sunday: 2pm: walking tour.
Old Tidemill & Crossfield Estate, Deptford
Saturday: 11-6pm: alternative designs, round table, food.
Ravensbury Grove Estate, Mitcham
Saturday: 12-2pm: tour.
Edmundsbury Court Estate, Brixton:
Saturday: 12-4pm: gardens open.
Cressingham Gardens Estate, Brixton
Saturday: 10-5pm, open gardens / 11am & 3pm: walking tours.
Macintosh Court, Streatham
Sunday: 2pm: naming ceremony / 2.30pm: tour / 3.30pm talks by residents, architect Kate Macintosh and ASH / 4.30pm: food.
Central Hill Estate, Crystal Palace
Saturday: 9am: street artists / 11am: guided tour / 11am onward: ASH exhibition & food stall / 1pm: Street Orchestra / 2pm: guided tour / 2.30pm: Film screening / 4pm: children’s painting, balloon release & puppet show / 4.30: film screening
Please visit one of the communities hosting Open Garden Estates this weekend. Get an insider’s view of council estates, meet the people that live there, and find out how you can help to save their homes. The more of us get involved the stronger the message we send:
Social housing not social cleansing!
Architects for Social Housing / www.opengardenestates.com