Social Housing Sound Archive is a collection of audio recordings made by myself A.J. Holmes
’Social Housing’ is an umbrella term referring to rental housing which is owned and managed by local authorities or by non-profit organisations (such as housing associations) initially built to house the ‘deserving poor’, working class and now intended to be let at low rents to those who are most in need. Although I have a keen interest in the history of social housing in general my primary concern for this website is British council housing, prioritising estates in London which have been identified as part of the local council's 'regeneration' schemes and are currently undergoing or under threat of full or partial demolition. My aim is to document these environments and most importantly the communities that live there and their campaigns to save their homes.
I have a great personal affinity with such environments, as for most of my life I have lived in council housing. I grew up on an estate in the London borough of Barking and Dagenham, called Marks Gate, which is much like many post-war council estates all over Britain. It is modest in design and scale, consists mostly of timidly modernist houses, low rise flats and one Scandinavian style, system built, tower block, charmingly named High View House. It is a 1950’s (completed in 1959) appendage to the Becontree Estate; the inner-war housing project often referenced to as the largest ‘Public Housing’ (an earlier, international term for council or state own housing) estate in the world. In this respect it is ‘on the periphery of the periphery’, as Barking and Dagenham is located on far edges of east London (the exotic far east, if you will) and Marks Gate is on the furthest edge of that, sandwiched between the A12 road and Hainault Forest, green belt.
I currently live in a very pleasant 1930s built Neo-Georgian block of flats on an LCC (London Country Council) estate in the London borough of Hackney. I’m very proud to say that I’m a council tenant and extremely sad and infuriated by the decline and current state of social housing in the UK. I was burn in 1971 so most of the childhood was lived in the ‘pre-right to buy’ council housing area. Which was an extremely pleasant environment to grow up in. Thoughout my life I have observed the top down systematic erosion of these environments, through wilful neglect, to the stage where a horrific tragedy like Grenfell Tower was - however shocking - unsurprising. Total eradication of social housing now seems to be official government policy, with hundreds of council estates - in London alone - subject to ‘regeneration schemes‘ resulting in partial or full demolition, with thousands of families losing their homes and / or secure tenancy, with communities being displaced and dispersed all the country.
In the wake of the terrible tragedy of Grenfell my only hope is that we have all turned a corner in our understand of the severity of the current housing crisis in the UK, acknowledge that it is not acceptable and that this must change; for the good of us all.
I also hope that the inhumane social cleansing that is currently taking place under the guise of so called ‘regeneration’ schemes can be radically re-considered. In the meantime I intend to continue documenting these environments and communities, in the hope that most of them will still be there for future generations to benefit from. If they are not, then may these recordings at least provide some indication of what was lost.