Births, deaths, loves and lives are all played out silently within my block of flats and the many others towering next to it.
Sitting silently in my room, I hear evidence of my neighbours above me - children’s feet running across the floor and crying late at night at bedtime.
Time in my room feels endless - I can happily waste hours in there doing nothing aside from thinking about what lies beyond the confines of my flat walls. I exist alongside my neighbours, but in my own small world, in the eco-system that is the tower block.
Some images from the Hidden Door Festivals’ “Hidden Courtyard” and other spaces.
The Hidden Door Festival takes place in Edinburgh, kicking off on Friday 22nd May, and I got a sneak peak at the fantastic space its team of volunteers have been transforming over the past two weeks. After the inaugural year in the Market Street Vaults, this year’s Hidden Door moves to a disused block of Council buildings on King Stables Road. Once office and warehouse areas, the spaces have become a labyrinth of art installations, performance venues and bars ready to welcome some of the Scotland’s finest artists and their audiences.
The festival offers a unique visual art, performance and music programme, which you can check out here: http://hiddendoorblog.org/
Highlights include: Black Diamond Express, Victorian Trout Conspiracy, Errors,
The Creative Martyrs, amongst others… Best of all, all events before 6pm are free and tickets to an evening give you access to ALL theatre, cinema and music performances happening that day. Get your tickets here: http://hiddendoorblog.org/tickets/
Basically, a fantastic festival in a fantastic space. Absolutely worth checking out.
severe depression is really cute. i woke up yesterday morning and heard something crawl up through my nasal cavity, then felt my skull creak for a while. i’d just dreamt about a man who got hooked on a drug and committed suicide by taking so much his head blew up. he had a little hut on the top of this council flat block, but i was always just wandering on the roof. an investigator came and i was terrified they’d think i murdered him, because he was kind of a recluse. it might’ve been cos of higurashi. is there a demon scrambling my brain apart who lives off my nostril waste and wasn’t anticipating an early rise? probably.
Architect’s model of the Balfron Tower & surrounding estate at the Victoria & Albert museum
Map of Poplar town center plans (?)
Above, back of Chrisp Street
Below, entrance to Balfron
Surveyor’s markings in the stairwells. The Balfron has been emptied of permanent residents, waiting for redevelopment and the sale of the former council flats to private individuals. In 2010 the council tenants of the block (living in 2/3rds of the properties) voted the property to transfer from the council’s ownership & running, to a housing group.
“Balfron’s social housing tenants, who previously occupied 99 of its 146 flats, voted to transfer to Poplar HARCA in 2006 on the understanding that their flats would be upgraded to the Decent Homes Standard and they would continue to live in them. They were progressively “decanted” from the block between 2010 and 2015 to allow refurbishment to take place. Following a series of setbacks to the project, it was announcement in February that Balfron would be sold as private flats through a joint-venture with developer LondonNewcastle”
These were similar fears from a lot of residents in the Byker Wall when I was working with Newcastle Council. The hard thing about the formation of trusts/ALMO’s/Housing associations, is that they are duty bound to do what is in the best interest of the Trust. This can be interpreted in anyway you wish. In Byker it was regularly linked back to the fact that the board including 4 elected residents would make all major decisions - there’s no way a resident who has to live on the estate will sanction the bulk selling off of social housing to private buyers.
The argument for selling the Balfron seems to be that the money will be reinvested in the surrounding facilities and housing stock. “Fair enough” seems to be the attitude of many but when HARCA will have first been mooted, the long term financial security of the association (and in tenants understanding, the security of peoples homes) will have been planned for.
It’s doubtful that any tenant would vote for the transfer knowing that their home will be sold, so either the tenants have been intentionally misled during the vote, or during the set up of HARCA there has been serious negligence with respects to their financial planning.
Aside Balfron are two smaller blocks, recently refurbished. (still occupied by social tenants I think).
A 4 minute shot of this with Functions on the low playing would be a canny A-Level media final project
Canary wharf dominates the skyline at this level. You don’t really notice at ground but once you’re up 5 or 6 floors it hits you.
One thing that stuck with me from Dan Hancox’s Stand Up Tall , a recounting of the emergence of Grime focusing on Dizzee Rascal, was the seemingly constant presence of One Canada Square, simultaneously a totem of futurism, motivation and inequality.
The almost tongue in cheek theory Hancox puts forward - that the blueprint of Boy In The Corner was created on one of the second hand PC’s donated to East London schools by Lehman Brothers, reads as the most tenuous example of trickle down economics or evidence of urban mysticism depending on how many episodes of X Files I’ve watched b2b.
While Dizzee often describes Canary Wharf as a beacon, and despite Bow being close to 3 miles north of Poplar, its dominance of the skyline and influence on its surroundings breaks through in his 2003 mercury music prize interview, predating the constant gentrification talk of the past few years.
“That is Canary Wharf. It’s in your face. It takes the piss. There are rich people moving in now, people who work in the city. You can tell they’re not living the same way as us.”
Full history of the Balfron, from plans, to transfer and all the dodge in between:
The Bangladeshi community that made Brick Lane famous for its curries is at risk of being torn apart. But while gentrification is usually blamed on the forces of capitalism, in this case the driving force is a charity.
In a third floor flat of a 1930s ex-council block, Saleh Ahmed looks up from the kitchen table where his wife Rusnobun is preparing a late afternoon meal of spiced tuna…