Stay Home? They wanted to…

As England enters a third lockdown where all people are ordered to “stay at home,” at Spectacle we are reminded of a community in Clapham Old Town, Lambeth SW4 that was told to “get out” of their homes.

In Rectory Gardens, there lived a group of creative and industrious people. As young artists and divergent thinkers they turned a derelict bombed out row of uninhabitable houses into a flourishing artistic community. For forty years they lived in a housing backwater largely unaffected by social housing policies, despite sporadic attempts by the council to “formalise” the street. They created a housing cooperative, until Lambeth, the ‘cooperative Council’ began taking their “million pound” houses from under their feet. The community that now included the vulnerable, elderly, and unwell, was broken up and dispersed. 

A Tragedy in the Commons 

The street circa 1980

Rectory Gardens (RG) is a L shaped Victorian pedestrian street in Clapham Old Town SW4 that was badly damaged by bombing during WW2. In the late 1960s and 1970s, the decimated houses attracted a group of squatters who saw the opportunity to create a utopia. This motley crew of characters with their own ideologies, housing needs, and reasons for living outside of the norm, formed a collective community which lived in relative harmony for four decades.  

Rectory Gardens circa 1980

By the 1980s these squatters had revitalized the houses, and formed a housing cooperative. Rectory Gardens offered a home for all kinds of artists, free-thinkers, draft dodgers, and other socially liminal characters. Through the 80 and 90s, it remained a diverse community at the epicentre of a flourishing arts scene.

Squatters clear rubble, circa 1960

The street was host to an industrious community of artists, musicians, poets and unconventional ‘free thinkers’ who found a cheap way of living while developing their creative endeavors. It became a hub of cultural activities initiating art studios and cafes that brought life to the area. Spectacle interviewed both Vivienne Westwood and Maggi Hambling about the value of Rectory Gardens’s cultural contributions.

Bombed out windows, circa 1960

Residents of this dynamic community were the initiators of much that made the area distinct and attractive, the skate park and cafe on clapham common, Cafe des Artistes, Fungus Mungus, Voltaire Studios, bric-a-brac shops, rehearsal studios, artisan crafts and pool of skilled creative labour. The street itself had a public garden that served as a safe play area in the day and a performance and social space in the evening.

As with any tragedy, their success was key to their end as well. The artistic growth contributed to the popularity of the neighborhood and ultimately its subsequent gentrification. The council had its eyes on the properties, and though the residents tried to work with the council to legalize their living arrangement the deal fell through. The residents were recently evicted by Lambeth Council, who sold the houses to a developer on the private market.

Evicting the community was devistating for the mental health and well-being of many of these elderly and vulnerable residents. They lost not only their homes but their community and support networks. Many struggled to live away from their home of forty years, some died or were sectioned. Housing is integral to well-being, a point overlooked by this profit driven housing department.

Spectacle at Rectory Gardens

In the spring of 2014 Spectacle was contacted by the residents of Rectory Gardens. They wanted to record the final months of their squat-turned housing-cooperative. Rectory Gardens had been a lively arts community for over forty years, but growing conflict with the local council left the residents desperately fighting to avoid eviction, something that perhaps some media advocacy and intervention could assist them with, they believed.

Spectacle begins filming at Rectory Gardens in 2014

During our preliminary engagement with Rectory Gardens, Spectacle offered training to any residents who were interested in filming techniques. Spectacle conducted workshops where participants learned camera techniques, collected peers’ stories, and collectively discussed the footage and ways to continue the production process. The production process was dictated by the participants themselves, and they shaped the narrative scope by inviting ex-residents to contribute with their memories. This work developed into an archive of oral histories of the street. 

Peers interview eachother and collect an oral history of the street

The production has continued for over six years, far longer than the initial few months originally envisioned. Together, Spectacle and Rectory Gardens residents have collected over 150 hours of footage including: long interviews with residents; key events on the street; residents resisting evictions; historic footage filmed by residents during the 90s; and residents in their new flats, reflecting on living away from their community where they lived for decades.

Post evictions, the street is home to wealthier residents

During Spectacle’s engagement, RG has been dismantled through evictions and relocations, and the residents have been scattered to various and disparate areas of the borough. The street, on the other hand, has been transformed to make way for the arrival of new wealthy tenants. 

Framing the Street 

Spectacle’s video archive of Rectory Gardens brings out many topical themes and offers inspiration for the post-Covid City through an examination of the past. Rectory Gardens is a portrait of forty years of resistance to the government housing policies. 

The houses themselves were initially built as philanthropic poor-quality Victorian housing for low-income workers. After
Rectory Gardens was bombed and left derelict post WW2, it provided a solution for postwar homelessness through squatting. It offered fertile ground for experimenting with alternative ways of living, resisted the “slum clearance” in the 1970s, Thatcherism, and the sale of social housing in the ‘80s. Their methods and ideologies represent a range of approaches including anarcho individualism, anarcho-syndicalism, socialism, capitalism of small artisanal businesses looking for cheap space, and the daily necessity of the socially excluded and the legally marginalised. 

The beautiful rennovation by one of the co-operative residents, taken just before eviction

By the 2000s, the constant push to turn London’s affordable housing into profit, was nibbling at the edges of Rectory Gardens as well. The insidious forces of “regeneration” and contemporary privatised gentrification have been endemic in London where, even by global standards, the commodification of real estate is extreme. Through eviction and rehousing the community was broken up, and the squatters were replaced with live-in guardians, the modern sanitised, privatised version of squatting.

It’s important to note that not all parts of London have been equally gentrified, and Lambeth Council, where Rectory Gardens is located, was famous for its tolerance of alternative housing organisations and leftist leanings. They referred to themselves as ‘the cooperative council’ and ‘Red Ted’ Knight and his ‘Socialist Republic of Lambeth’ were the bete-noir anti hero of the tabloids. There were many houses like Rectory Gardens which were uninhabitable after the war, and Lambeth had few resources to deal with them. Squatters quickly took advantage of the council’s disinterest and moved into these spaces. Lambeth greatly benefited from the labour of these groups, and many cooperatives were able to legalise their situation, but RG was not.

The Project Now

The filming part of this project has come to a close, and we are looking for partners in the next phase – telling the story of what has disappeared. 

We are searching for funding and partners to assist in bringing the dispersed community together again for an online participatory editing process. The process will let the former residents of Rectory Gardens tell their story, by sifting through the 150 hours of footage and drawing out narratives and themes to share with a wider audience.

Searching for Partners for Rectory Gardens Online Participatory Video Project

If you are interested in exploring collaborations or can suggest potential funding streams please get in contact. We welcome academic researchers, activists, social historians, and all others. 

Please get in touch with projects@spectacle.co.uk or subscribe for more information.

For updates check our other blogs.

This project is relevant to: well-being, health, housing, social housing, urbanism, urban planning, human geography, sociology, participatory methods, co-creatation, co-authorship, knowlege sharing, community filmmaking, and participatory film.

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Remote Participatory Workshop in Rostock, Germany

Does the Truth Still Lie in Rostock?

In August 2020, in collaboration with the Rostock based group Lichtenhagen im Gedächtnis , Spectacle developed and ran an archive-based two-day participatory workshop. This project is part of the run up to the 30th anniversary of the Rostock Pogrom in 1992.

The project’s events, which were held online due to the pandemic, included a public premier of a new fully German version of ‘The Truth Lies in Rostock’. The screening was followed by a Q&A with director Mark Saunders, which focused on the participatory production process through which the film was created. For more about the process or the archive footage, see the bottom of this post.

This screening also launched a unique workshop designed to connect Rostock’s past, present, and future.

The Truth Lies in Rostock

This 1993 film depicts the events which occurred in August 1992, at the Lichtenhagen estate in Rostock, in the former East Germany. Over the course of three nights, a fascist crowd assembled. The police withdrew as the mob petrol bombed a refugee centre and the home of Vietnamese guest workers while 3000 spectators stood by and clapped. 

The film uses material filmed from inside the attacked houses and interviews with anti-fascists, the Vietnamese guest workers, police, bureaucrats, neo-nazis and residents. Through these perspectives, a story of political collusion and fear unfolds. 

Thirty years later the question has become, how can the memory of the ‘Lichtenhagen Pogrom’ help fight new waves of fascism in Germany? 

Participatory Video Workshop

This two-day participatory video workshop offered the chance for young adults from Rostock to dig into the film’s questions about the nature of fascism, racism, and the roles and responsibilities of the city, state, and federal governments. 

By working with archive footage and filming a live commemorative demonstration, the workshop was designed to bridge the past and present issues of racism and anti-racism in Rostock. The workshop’s second aim was to offer new skills in media and filmmaking to these young adults. 

The workshop launched the weekend of August 20th. A group of young Rostockers were split in two groups, one working with archive footage, and one filming the live demonstration.

Before the workshop began, Spectacle digitized a portion of our extensive archive footage from 1992. The material selected was of the anti-nazi demonstration that followed the pogrom. This group worked with Spectacle to edit a new short film from the material. 

You can see their short film here: Demonstration 1992

Meanwhile, the rest of the participants went as a small group to film an event which echoed the archive material – the Lichtenhagen Commemorative Bicycle Demonstration. This group of participants learned about filming techniques and edited footage from the demonstration into a short film which focused on the landmarks which have been built to commemorate the events thirty years before. 

You can view their final short film here: Demonstration 2020

The Aims of the Project  

  • Provide a safe space for reflection about the events in Lichtenhagen, specifically for different groupings that were involved in the events at the time. This includes, but is not limited to the Vietnamese community in Rostock, some of whom had to fear for their lives and lost their homes in the events, and Rostock residents, some of whom were appalled at the unfolding events and other who were cheering at, or maybe even participating in the attacks.
  • Provide skills training in workshops, teaching participants how to use video cameras, record sound, and conduct interviews.
  • Potentially encouraging dialogue between diverse groups and contributing to a more sustainable community through a process of reconciliation.
  • Preserving the oral history of the 1992 events by creating Zeitzeugen (witness/bystander) documentation for future generations, through the production of a series of films including original as well as new footage. These footage shot in these workshops will be made available online as well as on DVD and can be used to educate younger generations.

The Archive 

Spectacle has an extensive archive of footage from Rostock between 1991-93. The archive grew out of a programme of participatory video workshops run by Spectacle. After the unification of Germany, all the East German media outlets were taken over or replaced with Western media. Spectacle’s series of open workshops were designed to establish an independent, community-based media group in Rostock and to document the effects of unification on the city.

All participants in the workshops were beginners, with little experience in photography or filmmaking. The practical exercises concentrated on how the unification was changing the physical urban landscape. At the close of the first sessions, each participant was interviewed about their experiences as well as their hopes and fears of “Die Wende” the unification of Germany.

One of the objectives of the workshops was to establish a community media group to that end we formed the Jako Media Co-op. Just six months later Jako E.V. and Spectacle would rejoin to make ‘The Truth Lies in Rostock’.

The production process created over 200 hours of footage that did not appear in the final edit of the film. These scenes of daily life in 1991-1993 have become an historic archive of the city at that volatile time. The aim of the 2020 project was to re-work and revisit this archive together with a new generation of Rostockers who were not even born at the time of the pogrom.

Watch The Films

Demonstration 2020
Demonstration 1992

Read past blogs about Spectacle’s Rostock projects here.

Visit our vimeo channel to see examples of Spectacle’s past PV work.

Sign up to our Newsletter for more information about our ongoing projects.

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Lost video “Aug 13” on “Battle of Lewisham 1977” found in Spectacle Archive

Late July 2017, just a few weeks before the 40th anniversary of the Battle of Lewisham Spectacle found the “lost” video of the anti-fascist film “Aug 13: What Happened” in its extensive and unique video archive. The Spectacle video archive contains over 3000 hours of video on social justice, urbanism, human rights, housing, anti-racism, alternative and radical media from 1977 to the present day. Much of the late 1970s and 1980s content was shot in and around East London which was a very different place then.

The film “Aug 13” was found, high on a shelf, among a group of U-Matic tapes Despite TV had gathered for a film, never finished, for the 50th Anniversary of the 1936 Battle of Cable Street when the Jewish community of East London and its anti-fascist allies blocked the streets in order to prevent Oswald Mosley and his British Union of Fascists marching through.

August 13 1977 the Battle of Lewisham from Spectacle Media on Vimeo.

The film depicts the infamous events of 13 August 1977, the so called Battle of Lewisham, when the far-right National Front (NF)  attempted to march through South East London which led to clashes with anti-fascist groups, and later between demonstrators and the police. The footage shows the first time police deployed riot gear on the UK mainland and provides vital evidence about the demonstration and its aftermath in which over 100 people were injured.

With testimony from eyewitnesses varying, and often contradicting official reports, the battle has become a contested historical event. The film was shot by volunteers connected to the Albany Video project in Deptford. This version was restored just in time for the anniversary and is now included in the London Community Video Archive

Nearly forty years later to the day, 12 August 2017, there was the “Charlottesville incident” a counter demonstration against a White Supremacist and Neo-Nazi march in Charlottesville , Virginia, USA. Lessons from the past might help in the fight against a new virulent form of Fascism taking a grip particularly in the USA, UK and Europe.

You might also be interested in our  documentary  film

22nd August will also be the 26th anniversary of the Rostock-Lichtenhagen riots. Check out our participatory investigative feature length documentary “The Truth Lies in Rostock

The Truth Lies in Rostock from Spectacle Media on Vimeo.

August 1992 Lichtenhagen estate, Rostock, former East Germany. Police withdraw as fascists petrol bomb a refugee centre and the home of Vietnamese guest workers while 3000 spectators stood by and clapped.

Using material filmed from inside the attacked houses and interviews with anti-fascists, the Vietnamese guest workers, police, bureaucrats, neo-nazis and residents, a story of political collusion and fear unfolds.

“Aug 13” is just one of the many lost and forgotten gems to be found in the Spectacle Archive. We are always interested to explore collaborative projects based on our archives.

To find out more about our archive, which also includes 100s of original paper documents regarding independent media 1977-2000 please ontact archive@spectacle.co.uk to find out more or visit Spectacle Archive

 

 

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Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo

New to the Spectacle Archive

Footage from the Q&A from the Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo screening at the National Film Theatre, Southbank is now available via the Spectacle Archive.

The Q&A featured Polly Nash, Gareth Peirce and Andy Worthington, and was chaired by Victoria Brittain.

Also available are interviews from the event.

If you are interested in organising a screening in your area contact us now.

Find screenings near you.

Outside the Law: Stories from Guantánamo is available to purchase now, click here for more details.

Find out more about Spectacle’s Guantánamo Project

Visit our Archive for extra interviews and more

Find out more about Outside the Law: Stories from Guantanamo

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Micronomics

New to the Spectacle Archive

Interviews and footage from Spectacle’s Micronomics Project is now available through our Archive.

Micronomics investigates an understanding of small scale self-organised (micro-)initiatives and whether the economy has room for them.

The film considers their potential to challenge the dominant definition of ‘the economy’ and implication, when the value created and exchanged is of social nature.

Details about the project are now available, visit the Project Page for more details.

Watch all clips associated with Micronomics.

Learn about the group Bicycology which features in the project. Watch the Bicycology interviews.

Information about Cycle Training UK and watch the interviews.

Clips from Spectacle’s Waffle Bank shoot with Refugee Youth will also be uploaded to the archive.

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Vito Interview

New to the Spectacle Archive

Interview with Vito.

With his family’s burger van in danger Vito talks to Spectacle about his worries.

WATCH Vito’s Interview.

For details on our Battersea Power Station Project visit Spectacle’s Project Page.

To watch interviews and more visit Spectacle’s Archive.

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Battersea Power Station

New to the Spectacle Archive

From gracing the covers of a Pink Floyd album to dominating the Skyline of London, Battersea Power Station is one of the capital’s greatest cultural icons. Yet since being decomissioned in 1983, the building has steadily deteriorated while waiting for development plans to come into fruition. Spectacle has been following the ongoing proposed plans for the iconic building.

Now available on Spectacle’s Archive page is footage from Control Room A and Control Room B within the Power Station.

Footage from the REO Exhibit including interviews with local residents (Alan and Terry)  is also available.

More on the Battersea Power Station Project.

For more interviews and extras visit the Spectacle Archive.

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Land is Ours

New to the Spectacle Archive

Land is Ours

In 1996 campaigners from ‘The Land is Ours’ occupied the river front site of an old distillery and oil depot on York Road, London SWl1, Wandsworth. Building a sustainable Eco village with gardens and public amenities.

Today, however on the site of the “Pure Genius” Land is Ours Eco Village stands Battersea Reach flats.

There is new footage of the site 15 years on, as well as the original film from 1996 now on the Spectacle Archive page:

Land is Ours Guiness site in 2010 – 2010

Land is Ours Wandsworth Bridge 1996 Pure Genius!!

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Neighbourly Encounter Video

Neighbourly Encounter: Missing Sculpture

Visit Silwood Video Group to view archive of local historian Tony McTurk and Artist’s model David Grist visit to the Silwood Estate in 2002 to find the missing sculpture Neighbourly Encounter by artist Uli Nimptsch.

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