Saturday, 8 September 2012

Ghost Town

Today I was heading into town on the bus on a shopping errand, and as we approached Elephant & Castle, I could see that there had been a serious accident on the approach on the Walworth Road, and all traffic was being diverted around through the enormous Heygate Estate, now deserted and awaiting demolition. I had been wanting for some time to take a particular photo here, and as my bus was gridlocked in the traffic cardiac arrest that ensues whenever anything goes wrong at Elephant, I decided to get off the bus and take my picture.

I then noticed some street art within the estate itself, and wandered in. At the heart of the estate, one man named Adrian, whom I encountered, the only remaining resident in that section (apparently there are fewer than a dozen left out of the 3,000 who used to live there) has taken over the entire courtyard and turned it into an urban farm of sorts, growing beans and vegetables, keeping chickens. He also has a sort of impromptu outdoor museum of the history of the struggle of the tenants for fair compensation for the loss of their homes, which he and his small group of holdouts are continuing. He said that it was either that or be forced to move out of London. The gentrification of the city is thus creating its own concrete jungle, as property development schemes, greed, and the incessant demand for premium housing for this global beast of a city drive the poor further toward the margin. Perhaps the word "favela" will come into common use in the English language.

It was an amazing 90 minutes I spent wandering there, and I took nearly 150 photos, featured in this slide show. (For those who prefer it, the native Flickr set is here.) Apart from Adrian, I didn't encounter anyone else, and it was a very strange feeling to be in this very quiet and deserted landscape in the midst of one of the busiest sections of South London, with chickens clucking away as I snapped photos. At times it almost felt like the aftermath of a pandemic, which, I guess, in a sense, it is.



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