About

Note: You can now find me at: City of Strangers

Notes from the margins . . .

I am a writer, amateur photographer, and occasional film-maker. I started this blog in London, England almost two years ago. My ambition was to record what little of the city I had known in the 80’s below the hyper-capitalist/ gentrified and ultimately boring ‘world city that London had become. However, I left London shortly after, the stock market crashed . . . and then I came back to New York.

I’ve lived in New York off and on from the late 80’s until 2003. It was home, not home, a place I wanted to escape from then missed so badly when I was away I couldn’t stay away. New York. Since then, I’ve drifted in and out, seen the city change on the surface, but never stayed long enough to understand what was going. For the last year I’ve been trying to understand the beautiful city again, note the changes, remember what was, and try and figure out where the city is going.  This blog is about that journey back into the city.

It is also partially about my journey back from the fog. One of the main reasons I left New York in the early 00’s was due to a calamitous injury which left me in a marginal state that lasted years. In a very real physical, financial and economic sense the 00’s were my lost decade.  So now, peering out of the fog, I am trying to figure out where I’ve been, and what happened in my absence.

I try and post a couple of times a week, depending on time.

You can also check out my other blog Live From the Heygate which is about London’s Heygate Estate and the Elephant and Castle regeneration. The Heygate and the Elephant are a good example of the many marginal areas I’ve lived in which are going through massive changes and will likely be unrecognizable in years to come.

36 Comments

  1. Hey,
    I’ve enjoyed browsing through your blog, especially the posts concerning the Heygate estate, really interesting stuff!! Thoroughly enjoying it.
    I study Graphic Design and Photography (first year) at Kingston University, but I live in Peckham.
    For my final major project I decided to look at the “regeneration” scheme Southwark Council are planning for areas like Heygate, Aylesbury and also what they started in North Peckham.
    I would really appreciate it if I could get some of your own personal views/stories about it, and also if it would be possible to interview you.
    If you are interested in either or both, please email me at jeni_diamondz@hotmail.co.uk.
    Thanks!

  2. Hey,
    I’ve enjoyed browsing through your blog, especially the posts concerning the Heygate estate, really interesting stuff!! Thoroughly enjoying it.
    I study Graphic Design and Photography (first year) at Kingston University, but I live in Peckham.
    For my final major project I decided to look at the “regeneration” scheme Southwark Council are planning for areas like Heygate, Aylesbury and also what they started in North Peckham.
    I would really appreciate it if I could get some of your own personal views/stories about it, and also if it would be possible to interview you.
    If you are interested in either or both, please email me at jeni_diamondz@hotmail.co.uk.
    Thanks!

  3. Hi cityofstranges
    I found your blog while I was doing some rerearch
    Well done! I really enjoyed it!
    I’m doing an MA at LCC in documentary photography.
    right now I’m working on a project about the heygate estate, a bit like Jeni. I used to squat too and I would love to meet someone that lived in the heygate estate
    I would really like to meet you..
    Could you please contact me at
    skivalent@yahoo.it

    ciao

  4. Hi cityofstranges
    I found your blog while I was doing some rerearch
    Well done! I really enjoyed it!
    I’m doing an MA at LCC in documentary photography.
    right now I’m working on a project about the heygate estate, a bit like Jeni. I used to squat too and I would love to meet someone that lived in the heygate estate
    I would really like to meet you..
    Could you please contact me at
    skivalent@yahoo.it

    ciao

  5. I just found your blog whilst surfing — I studied at Elephant and Castle for years,know the place very very well, and to be honest, I really dislike the place. It seems to me to be a perfect example of the Globalized exploitation of the poor and struggling and the disenfranchised ( of all colours and creeds ) — though it masquerades now as being ‘hip’ and ‘forward looking’, ‘post modern’ and multicultural.

    The history of the place pains me, it really does — it once had a thriving white working class population, who went through the worst of WW2, doing their best to hold their heads up. ( read Michael Collins, and go through the record at the local council offices and library ) These people were displaced almost entirely in the post war period up to the early 80’s, by waves and waves of even poorer ethnic Britons, who were jammed into already crowded areas, and then later waves of immigrants displaced them too — all they had in common was — they were herded into these ghastly tunnels and rabbit hutches, to be cheated, exploited and used as never ending sources of cheap labour for their masters, forced into ugly, bleakly alienating hostile concrete soul – less areas, zones that encourage neurosis, hostility, crime,antagonism, de-personalization, lack of empathy and depression.

    And I see the same happening now — hordes of the struggling vulnerable displaced masses, the poor from every corner of the world, jammed in to Ele once more — all to be used for the sweat off their vulnerable backs. It’s sad to see, and it’s not cool. The only people who seem to think it’s ‘cool’ are middle class photography and design students from LCC, who just seem to hang around the area as a kind of external detached presence, taking photos , or painting it all as some kind of ‘groovy’ area.

    Even many of the people in the local council/town planning areas who are planning all these ‘changes’ are not even local themselves — I had fairly close dealings with them, and they are ‘planners, intellects, architects and think tankers’ from all over the place — New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Germany, Oxford, Reading, Cambridge, Amsterdam — from all over the place that is : Except local people and long temers from the Elephant and Castle.

    There are no long termers from the Elephant and Castle of course — it’s just a place to cyclically use the poor and struggling from all corners of the world, until they are too beat to be used anymore, and new workhorses take their miserable places, or, when they have enough saved to get out, as any wise person tries to do ( Even the middle class LCC lot don’t hang around longer then they have to — who in their right mind would , in such a soul less place? )

    It’s not worth championing — it’s worth condemning, for the cynical globalised project it truly is.

    It’s a sad place.

    Observer.

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment. It was thoughtful, and I wish I could find some way to put it under the actual Elephant and Castle posts. Anyhow, I agree to some extent. I often wonder what happened to the white working class that lived in the area when I first moved to the Elephant in the late 80’s – particularly the Irish in the estates north of the New Kent Road. I have read Micheal Collins’ piece – excellent.

      I mean, don’t let me give the impression I LOVED the Elephant or anything. I’ve had a twenty year on and off relationship with the place and it’s become somehow just part of my life, for better or worse.

      However – it remains one of the last places in London where poor people, whatever their ethnicity, can live in Zone 1. Everywhere else is for the rich. And, having lived on the Heygate for awhile, I have to say it wasn’t that bad. Wasn’t that great either, but given the alternatives . . .the mall is certainly awful in many different ways, but again, not as awful as it could be.

      Is the Elephant and Castle hip now? I know photographers liked the estate, but that’s mostly for it’s visuals. I would agree that the designers of the regeneration are likely as cut off and unconcerned with the real needs of local people, as the designers of the last regeneration – that gave us the shopping centre and the Heygate Estate!

      If indeed the regeneration goes through, since it seems to be stalling on many fronts at once.

      Anyway, write in again if you want to continue this discussion. I’ve always passed through the Elephant as an outsider, so I’m curious for other points of view. You can find more on the Heygate and the Elephant at http://livefromtheheygate.blogspot.com

      Tim

  6. I just found your blog whilst surfing — I studied at Elephant and Castle for years,know the place very very well, and to be honest, I really dislike the place. It seems to me to be a perfect example of the Globalized exploitation of the poor and struggling and the disenfranchised ( of all colours and creeds ) — though it masquerades now as being ‘hip’ and ‘forward looking’, ‘post modern’ and multicultural.

    The history of the place pains me, it really does — it once had a thriving white working class population, who went through the worst of WW2, doing their best to hold their heads up. ( read Michael Collins, and go through the record at the local council offices and library ) These people were displaced almost entirely in the post war period up to the early 80’s, by waves and waves of even poorer ethnic Britons, who were jammed into already crowded areas, and then later waves of immigrants displaced them too — all they had in common was — they were herded into these ghastly tunnels and rabbit hutches, to be cheated, exploited and used as never ending sources of cheap labour for their masters, forced into ugly, bleakly alienating hostile concrete soul – less areas, zones that encourage neurosis, hostility, crime,antagonism, de-personalization, lack of empathy and depression.

    And I see the same happening now — hordes of the struggling vulnerable displaced masses, the poor from every corner of the world, jammed in to Ele once more — all to be used for the sweat off their vulnerable backs. It’s sad to see, and it’s not cool. The only people who seem to think it’s ‘cool’ are middle class photography and design students from LCC, who just seem to hang around the area as a kind of external detached presence, taking photos , or painting it all as some kind of ‘groovy’ area.

    Even many of the people in the local council/town planning areas who are planning all these ‘changes’ are not even local themselves — I had fairly close dealings with them, and they are ‘planners, intellects, architects and think tankers’ from all over the place — New Zealand, Australia, Canada, Germany, Oxford, Reading, Cambridge, Amsterdam — from all over the place that is : Except local people and long temers from the Elephant and Castle.

    There are no long termers from the Elephant and Castle of course — it’s just a place to cyclically use the poor and struggling from all corners of the world, until they are too beat to be used anymore, and new workhorses take their miserable places, or, when they have enough saved to get out, as any wise person tries to do ( Even the middle class LCC lot don’t hang around longer then they have to — who in their right mind would , in such a soul less place? )

    It’s not worth championing — it’s worth condemning, for the cynical globalised project it truly is.

    It’s a sad place.

    Observer.

    • Hi there,

      Thanks for your comment. It was thoughtful, and I wish I could find some way to put it under the actual Elephant and Castle posts. Anyhow, I agree to some extent. I often wonder what happened to the white working class that lived in the area when I first moved to the Elephant in the late 80’s – particularly the Irish in the estates north of the New Kent Road. I have read Micheal Collins’ piece – excellent.

      I mean, don’t let me give the impression I LOVED the Elephant or anything. I’ve had a twenty year on and off relationship with the place and it’s become somehow just part of my life, for better or worse.

      However – it remains one of the last places in London where poor people, whatever their ethnicity, can live in Zone 1. Everywhere else is for the rich. And, having lived on the Heygate for awhile, I have to say it wasn’t that bad. Wasn’t that great either, but given the alternatives . . .the mall is certainly awful in many different ways, but again, not as awful as it could be.

      Is the Elephant and Castle hip now? I know photographers liked the estate, but that’s mostly for it’s visuals. I would agree that the designers of the regeneration are likely as cut off and unconcerned with the real needs of local people, as the designers of the last regeneration – that gave us the shopping centre and the Heygate Estate!

      If indeed the regeneration goes through, since it seems to be stalling on many fronts at once.

      Anyway, write in again if you want to continue this discussion. I’ve always passed through the Elephant as an outsider, so I’m curious for other points of view. You can find more on the Heygate and the Elephant at http://livefromtheheygate.blogspot.com

      Tim

  7. Thanks Tim — I feel quite strongly about these issues, especially the disenfranchisement of London’s ethnic white poor, and equally so, the casting aside of Jamaican/Irish immigrants — these issues are difficult to write about without baffling middle class commentators,who usually label it –wrongly — as ‘racist’ , demagogic discourse.

    Globalization has succesfully cornered all criticism , using the middle class privileiged ‘left’ as a bulwark, suposedly representing the voice of the ‘sensible left majority.’

    It’s a suppression of real dialogue, and disenfranchises the white working classes further, leaving them n-o-w-h-e-r-e ( besides in their firm place in the press labelled as workshy, ignorant, racist,benefits cheats,obese, reactionary, chavs, drunks ) and leaves the later immigrants ( Jamaicans, Irish ) invisible, in a voiceless, identity less, unrepresented void.

    The old Eastern Bloc repressive machinery couldn’t have done a better stich up gagging job.

    Obverver

  8. Thanks Tim — I feel quite strongly about these issues, especially the disenfranchisement of London’s ethnic white poor, and equally so, the casting aside of Jamaican/Irish immigrants — these issues are difficult to write about without baffling middle class commentators,who usually label it –wrongly — as ‘racist’ , demagogic discourse.

    Globalization has succesfully cornered all criticism , using the middle class privileiged ‘left’ as a bulwark, suposedly representing the voice of the ‘sensible left majority.’

    It’s a suppression of real dialogue, and disenfranchises the white working classes further, leaving them n-o-w-h-e-r-e ( besides in their firm place in the press labelled as workshy, ignorant, racist,benefits cheats,obese, reactionary, chavs, drunks ) and leaves the later immigrants ( Jamaicans, Irish ) invisible, in a voiceless, identity less, unrepresented void.

    The old Eastern Bloc repressive machinery couldn’t have done a better stich up gagging job.

    Obverver

  9. Observer,

    I agree, the marginalization of the ethnic white working class in Britain is a real problem and I was amazed coming back to Britain a couple years ago (after an absence of almost twelve), how much class prejudice had come back, how acceptable it had become to sneer at the ‘lower orders’. And how little the working class remained in London.

    Where did the old white working class of the Elephant go? All the old Irish bars I knew from fifteen, twenty years ago north of New Kent Road are still there – but empty. Did they all move out to the suburbs? Further out into Peckham?

    I saw first-hand how immigration was used as a cudgel to keep wages down, how well it fit into the system of keeping wages absurdly low for the majority of people.

    I’m curious – who were the regeneration people you met? Despite their lofty rhetoric, it always seemed like an excuse to gentrify . . .

    Tim

  10. Observer,

    I agree, the marginalization of the ethnic white working class in Britain is a real problem and I was amazed coming back to Britain a couple years ago (after an absence of almost twelve), how much class prejudice had come back, how acceptable it had become to sneer at the ‘lower orders’. And how little the working class remained in London.

    Where did the old white working class of the Elephant go? All the old Irish bars I knew from fifteen, twenty years ago north of New Kent Road are still there – but empty. Did they all move out to the suburbs? Further out into Peckham?

    I saw first-hand how immigration was used as a cudgel to keep wages down, how well it fit into the system of keeping wages absurdly low for the majority of people.

    I’m curious – who were the regeneration people you met? Despite their lofty rhetoric, it always seemed like an excuse to gentrify . . .

    Tim

  11. Hello!
    We met at Claire’s reading. Someday I’d like to return the favor of being present at something of yours! I wanted to ask your advice about shifting to wordpress–can you send your e-mail?

    Bucko!

  12. Hello!
    We met at Claire’s reading. Someday I’d like to return the favor of being present at something of yours! I wanted to ask your advice about shifting to wordpress–can you send your e-mail?

    Bucko!

  13. Hi Tim

    Drop me an email – I have a couple of pictures of the Heygate demolition which might interest you.

    Jerry

  14. Hi Tim

    Drop me an email – I have a couple of pictures of the Heygate demolition which might interest you.

    Jerry

  15. Hi there,

    My name is Sarah and i am studying Architecture at Brighton University. My site this year is based in Elephant and Castle and having spent a few days discovering the area i have become completely transfixed with the Heygate Estate. Having researched the topic i came across your blog which has been a fascinating read!

    I would be very keen to get your views on the area as it was all those years ago as well as the recent regeneration plans etc.

    My email address is sarahloutimm@aol.com. Please do get in touch as i am keen to get involved!

    Sarah x

  16. Hi there,

    My name is Sarah and i am studying Architecture at Brighton University. My site this year is based in Elephant and Castle and having spent a few days discovering the area i have become completely transfixed with the Heygate Estate. Having researched the topic i came across your blog which has been a fascinating read!

    I would be very keen to get your views on the area as it was all those years ago as well as the recent regeneration plans etc.

    My email address is sarahloutimm@aol.com. Please do get in touch as i am keen to get involved!

    Sarah x

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