From the London Times: 

Funny, the guy goes to great pains to show what a hellhole it is, then pulls back and says, actually it’s not so bad etc. 
Question is: what will it be like for the resident as all this construction work is going on around them – for YEARS?


  1. Hi, I’m a graphic design student from London College of Communication, in Elephant and Castle. We’re currently working on a project with the Aylesbury estate, celebrating the oral histories of the area.

    I was wondering if you could give me an insight of what it was like living on the estate for some of the research I am doing. We will also be interviewing some of the residents. Anyway if you could help me in any way it would be massively appreciated. I’m enjoying reading the site.



  2. Hi James,

    Thanks for the comment. I didn’t live on the Aylesbury – that’s why the site is called ‘live from the Heygate!’. The Heygate Estate is quite different from the Aylesbury – smaller, more central, historically less crime. I’ve only passed through the aylesbury estate a few times – I’d suggest maybe contacting some people or organizations mentioned in the article or going through the Aylesbury Tennant’s Association, who might be able to lead you to some people.

    Best of Luck.

  3. Hi thanks for that, I know that you live at Heygate, I was just interested in the particular account your flatmate gave of the Aylesbury. I’m tackling the way the media portray estates and the way it affects community and morale.

    I was just looking at some general experiences of the larger estates in South London and found your blog of interest.

    I was hoping you could answer for me, is there/has there been a sense of community in your experience of estates? Heygate doesn’t seem to attract very much press, but I wonder whether there is much interaction with neighbors, or community programs?

    Anyway if you want to answer any of that, its much appreciated.

  4. James,

    My experience was that there was very little interaction at all between neighbors – in fact that was one of the things that made living there a little eerie (I don’t live there anymore btw). However, I was only typical of a certain kind of person who lived on the estate, someone who was from outside England, passing through and so on. I definitely represented a demographic – the estates, like my flatmate said, provided an entry point for many people coming into London for the first time. But for people who had roots in the area, the experience might have been very different. Some estates do have a sense of community, togetherness – in spite of the architecture.
    Your best bet would probably be to contact the Tennant’s Association and see if they can hook you up with any long time tennants.

  5. Thanks for that, its useful stuff. The reason I am looking to ask people from outside of the estate is that the project I’m working on asks us to act respectfully to the residents.

    As you can imagine thirty or so people running around the estate looking for answers, wouldn’t get the best of reactions.

    Anyway I’m going to be doing some interviews with people who have people who have dealt with the Aylesbury in the media. The University have also set up an interview for Thursday with five longtime residents, so ill upload them if I come across anything interesting.

    Many thanks

  6. Well, I think if all thirty of you went running around, I’m sure there would be problems – but if you went to a tennant’s association and set up interviews with people that way, I think a lot of people would like to talk to you. People almost always appreciate interest in their story, especially now that the Heygate is about to be demolished, and the Aylesbury demolished and rebuilt bit by bit. It’s a transitional time and people have an instinctive desire to record what was.

    Best of luck.

  7. Sorry, I missed the part about the interviews with long-time residents – Yeah I’d love to put them on the blog, it’s all very valuable.

    You might also search through newspaper archives. The Guardian had a piece I think circa 94 about a guy who’d grown up on the Heygate going back to see it again. Very interesting.

    Best . . .

  8. thanks, i’ll have a look at that tonight. What did you mean by circa 94 btw? I went down to the Heygate today. It looks really strange with most of it being sealed off with metal sheeting.

    Have you been moved on from there long? Seems like there are only a few residents left in some of the larger blocks…

  9. That is was published circa 1994 – I actually haven’t read it but someone told me about it. I’ll have to look for it myself – if I find it I’ll post it on the site.

    The estate looks totally surreal. Peaceful in a way . . . I left in April, so they were just gearing up with sealing the flats off when I left. I go back every couple of weeks and every time I do the estate seems more and more empty . . . some tiers just have one or two residents.

  10. there seems to be less media coverage of the Heygate, but more personal stuff online. I thought the memories of Heygate was a really nice idea, that with a bit of promotion could have really worked.

    Were you aware of the media coverage of South London’s estates when you lived there, or was it something that didnt really bother you? I mean estates have reputations but do these last when you experience living there?

    I found this quite interesting:

    not sure whether its a good thing or bad thing for estates

  11. Thanks for the link, I’d be very curious to see it.

    As for the media rep, well yes I was aware of it and in some other posts I talk about how the Heygate at least didn’t live up to any of it really – it was mostly a pretty peaceful place. I guess also I’d lived in bad areas of New York before this so what suprised me was how unlike these areas the Heygate was – little of the tension or suspicious looks. I never felt threatened at all.

    Like I wrote at the very beginning, I came to the Elephant twenty years ago and had always been fascinated by these estates so it was interesting to actually live on one. Also . . . a lot of the time media goes for the easy story.

    What did you mean ‘with a bit of promotion it could have really worked’.

  12. Well from what I gathered from the site, it was a really good idea, however there didnt seem to be very much input into the database of memories.

    An idea like that is something that could easily get the residents to contribute their oral histories, but coming from an advertising perspective I feel an idea like that needs some promotion.

    Simply as a way of getting residents to check out the site. Once a few people get writing and the awareness is there, ideally it would start to take off. Thats my opinion anyway.

    I think I too am becoming fascinated with estates from researching this project. Although walking through some of the estates can be quite intimidating, having not lived in South London for too long. Just a natural feeling I guess. Did you feel that way in your first impressions at all?

  13. Well, I was first introduced to the estates when I came here fresh from Canada – I’d only been to see England as a kid, and then to see grandparents and so on – so at first they weren’t just intimidating but totally overwhelming. But as time went on, they came to fascinate me – their bleakness, their size, and what they said about contemporary Britain. Like a whole post-war dream that had failed. A shabby dream in some ways, but there was a definite utopian strain in the people who designed these places.

    I have to make this a blog entry at some point, but go to the Tate Britain and see the section on brutalism – amazing to think these guys (and gals) saw brutalism as a way of HUMANIZING neighborhoods. ‘Tis the failure of the whole modernist adventure.

    I didn’t promote the site much primarily because I was just feeling my way into it, but I was and am open to people from the estate writing up their own memories. Any ideas?

  14. ah I didn’t realise that you created the Heygate memories site. I just saw it as a link on the blog, but credit due I like the idea.

    I can imagine promotion being hard on an estate where as you say there is very little interaction. But perhaps going through the tennants association, postering in any social clubs on the estate would be my way to encourage people to contribute their histories, stuff like that.

    Perhaps doing something similar on the Aylesbury could be an avenue to explore for my final outcome.

    I’ll be sure to check out that section. Funny you say about their sheer size and bleakness. As i’ve read its made the estate popular sets for tv shows. Ever notice any filming of that type on Heygate?

  15. Oh – I see what section you mean. No, that wasn’t me at all – and too bad, it WAS/IS a good idea. Try leaving a message?

    There seemed to be a fair bit of filming on the Heygate – various kinds, docs and use as sets, music videos. That was one surprising part of being there – how much media there was.

  16. yeah i left a message almost a week ago but haven’t heard anything yet.

    In the video link I left on the bbc, there is a piece of anti gun/knife crime media, produced by youth workers and young people connected with the estate.

    However positive the message of the piece is, I couldn’t help but notice that a girl blows her own head off, with blood splattering up the sign for Claydon.

    Pretty graphic, especially if you live there and see your block being used in this way. I guess that comes down to debate on what you consider more important, problems on the estates through reputation or general gun crime.

  17. Or how gratuitous . .. a girl blows her own head off, splattering the sign for Claydon? Too much.

    Maybe it was much rougher a few years ago, but I never had that feeling off it. Not even close. It was actually very quiet – hardly any loud music, a general respect for space. they’d cleaned out the crackhouses by last year, I’m sure that used to make it worse.

    What I remember of the Aylesbury and the North Peckham, which I used to work around and had some contact with – this was the late 80’s/ early 90’s – was not so much that kind of brutality as a kind of bleakness that was fascinating in itself.

    I don’t know – it’s so easy to blow these things out of proportion. Most media people are public school, they have deadlines – it’s easy to reduce it to the easy story – and it does affect perception. Read enough stories about black kids with knives and guns – the US specializes in this – and you start thinking every black kid you see has a knife or a gun.
    Actually, after living in NYC for twelve years, what I noted about the heygate is how the same racial tensions just didn’t exist. After a certain point I dind’t even think about it – and didn’t realize I’d stopped thinking about it until I went back to NY in the spring and had to start thinking about it again.

    the reality of an estate like the Heygate and even the Aylesbury is much more complex. Where are you going to move to in central London if you move here from Africa, Latin America – or hell poorer parts of England?

    The filming seemed to be pretty diverse. A lot of phtographers and film-makers just liked how the estate looked – I’ve come to appreciate Mondrian like lines and squares and so on myself – especially at night. A friend told me he once came out of the train station and saw a white stallion galloping across the green in front of Claydon. Of course he was amazed . . . turns out it was for a film (of course) . . . I never found out what film.

  18. Yeah, I just read an interview with Jean Bartlett, head of the Aylesbury tennants association. She describes the filming of the channel 4 ident as “he “worst thing that ever happened to this estate.”

    As former estate resident where do you stand on filming for commercial reasons? I read rumours that estates are commanding as much as £2,000 a time to use the site.

    Seems like a pretty useful amount of money but my initial concern is where is this money actually going.

  19. £2000 per filming? Wow. I guess it depends on who that money goes to. I had no idea they could charge this much though.

    Where was the interview with the woman from the Aylesbury Tennant’s Assoication? Why did she regret the indent so much?

    My theory is that there is a fascination with these places – especially as they are all being pulled down. Look at Trellis Tower, now a landmark building with private flats that go for half a million. Twenty years ago, it was just another estate.

  20. She didnt actually give permission, I think. But here is her thoughts in the article. I guess the perception that comes with it is what she, like many others dislikes.

    I do feel sorry for the fact that the estates are scrutinized in the media. Peoples homes shown off in as bad a light as possible just to make the story. My house is an absolute state half the time, but I’m never gonna have people publicizing that.

    I’m sure you could vouch for the fact that many of the homes are in good condition inside, but are let down by poor maintenance of the buildings themselves.

  21. also I found this in an agenda entry for Walworth Council.

    Filming on the Aylesbury Estate

    A member of the public raised the issue of filming on the Aylsbury estate by the television programme “The Bill”. As it often portrays the estate in a less than favorable light the member of the public wondered what the residents get out of the disruption, for example does someone get paid? Members agreed that their should be something coming from this kind of activity and that clarity was needed over the general council policy on this.

    That the situation regarding filming on the Aylesbury be investigated and reported back to a future Community Council meeting.

    It is obviously a concern for some.

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