warner communications

Our disappearing housing

There is something deeply appealing and rather melancholy to me about the selection of images gathered for a new exhibition which opens in Walthamstow at the end of the month (perhaps because this couple look a bit like my mum and dad, and that looks very much like our old fireplace). But the subject, the gradual disappearance of a cohesive, well-housed working class community in London is of much broader interest.

WE: The Ex-Warner Estate in Waltham Forest looks at a disappearing community and the distinctive Warner homes in Walthamstow and Leyton from the start of the 20th century, using a combination of photographs from residents, new photography, archive images and oral histories.

The show illustrates how radically working class family life has changed in London. The Warner homes saw generations of families renting and living close to each other. But the newest generations of these families have been forced out of the area or of London altogether, as homes are sold off and London gentrifies. A two-bedroom Warner flat currently sells for around £450,000.

Artists Lucy Harrison and Katherine Green have collected hundreds of images from as far afield as the US and Australia, as well as oral histories from those who have lived in these distinctive properties for 20 years or more, to create an exhibition that shows how residents lived in the properties throughout the 20th century and into the 21st.

“At a time when east London is becoming rapidly gentrified and a lack of affordable housing is a huge issue for many, the project looks at one example of how a private company developed large amounts of good quality housing stock and its legacy for the area today,” says Harrison. “These outstanding photographs show an era where working class families could live comfortably in stable accommodation, enjoying their homes and community life. The images provide a stark contrast with the conditions in the rented sector for
families like this today.”

WE: The Ex-Warner Estate in Waltham Forest
29th October 2016 –19th February 2017
Vestry House Museum, Vestry Road, London E17 9NH
Open 10am-5pm, Wednesday – Sunday. Admission free.


On this day in music history: August 1, 1981 - At 12:01 am, MTV, the world’s first 24 hour cable music network is launched. A joint venture between Warner Communications and American Express (i.e. Warner-Amex Cable, later Viacom, Inc.), the cable television channel originally shows music videos and concerts during its round the clock broadcasts (VJ segments are pre-taped). The concept for the channel is created by Bob Pittman, who later becomes president and CEO of MTV Networks. The original MTV VJ’s are J.J. Jackson, Mark Goodman, Alan Hunter, Nina Blackwood, and Martha Quinn (Jackson, Hunter, and Blackwood leave in 1986, Goodman in 1987 and Quinn in 1991). The first music video aired on the channel  is the clip for The Buggles’ 1979 single “Video Killed The Radio Star”, making a symbolic and prophetic statement on how the visual aspect of music will impact it in the future. The network revolutionizes the way music is marketed and promoted to a mass audience, forever changing the music industry. In the months and years that follow, MTV spawns numerous competitors and imitators including Video Jukebox, Night Tracks (on SuperStation WTBS out of Atlanta), Friday Night Videos (on NBC), ABC Rocks, Cable Music Channel, and D-TV (on the Disney Channel). Later in the decade and the early 90’s, the channel breaks new ground with the introduction of shows like “Yo! MTV Raps”, “Headbanger’s Ball”, “120 Minutes” and “MTV Unplugged”, impacting the rise of Hip Hop, Metal and Alternative Rock into mainstream popularity. By the mid 90’s, with the shifting tides in musical tastes and trends, MTV begins to significantly reduce the number of hours per day that music videos are played, in favor of other programming created for the channel including reality shows like “The Real World”, “The Osbournes, "Jersey Shore” and various game shows, comedy programs and animated programs. Happy 35th Anniversary, MTV!!!