What’s going on with Battersea Power Station?

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After a big spike in reporters’ attention following Apple’s decision to move its headquarters into the grade 2 star listed art deco Building, Battersea Power Station has gone quieter in mainstream media over the last months. This doesn’t mean that nothing has changed and Spectacle has been following the latest initiatives of Battersea Power Station Development Company around the beloved building designed by Giles Gilbert Scott. Unfortunately much of the news is not reassuring.

Bad news or good news? Bad and good, as usual, are mixed up in the opacity of corporate communication, where everything can be spun according to the most convenient narrative. In fact, the general public is probably aware that the biggest and richest company in the world, Apple, have expressed their intention to move into the refurbished power plant. Apple has been welcomed almost unanimously in mainstream media (among others:  BBC, The Guardian, Evening Standard) as good news. Meanwhile only Spectacle’s blog reported that the East Wall has been completely demolished in order to make windows and give light to Apple’s offices.

Battersea Power Station - three of the four chimneys have been rebuilt

Battersea Power Station – three of the four chimneys have been rebuilt. (Spectacle, 10/03/17)

This major loss, unreported in the mainstream media, follows a curious ’destroy-to-preserve’  strategy repeatedly applied to portions of the Battersea Power Station. Even though best practice in heritage interventions recommends to keep existing structures, the iconic chimneys have gone and been replaced with replicas. In our opinion this is the most evident distortion produced by developer-led preservation, as shown in our film Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon.

The demolitions (east wall and chimneys) have been approved by all regulatory agencies (Historic England – former English Heritage – and Wandsworth Council) and justified with the greater good of bringing the Battersea Power Station back to life. But what good has the 9 billion development – one of the biggest in Europe –  delivered so far? The works to rebuild the chimneys have proceeded and, at the moment, three newly built chimneys stick out the spoiled art deco power station. Hopefully Londoners will be able to once again admire the four chimneys back on the Battersea skyline, even though they are fakes. Better than nothing? Maybe. 

PUBLIC NOT PUBLIC

Battersea Power Station Development Company, through it’s Chief Executive Rob Tincknell, have recently announced the opening of a riverside walk in the development area:  “We are delighted that we are able to open new public spaces for London and are starting to bring the power station and its surrounds back into London life” (Reported on the Evening Standard). Despite the enthusiasm in the wording, the ‘public space’ Rob Tincknell is talking about is a private walk squeezed between the river and Phase 1 of the development. This promenade is going to be integrated into the wider riverside walk that will be opened in front of the Power Station. Like the rest of the development, this space is private and merely open to public, which is quite different from being ‘public space’.

BPS_Collage_Riverside

The recently open riverside promenade (Spectacle, 04/03/2015)

While filming the new Riverside promenade, our naive crew, believing in the “public space” hype outlined by the developers, acted as if it was a real public area. Unfortunately we have been brought back to reality when the local security reminded us that the landlord decided that smoking was not allowed on the site. Thanks to this sensible management, our health has been preserved. Nevertheless it seems unlikely that a privately policed space will guarantee free enjoyment of the river. If they were to outlaw picnics (maybe to help food shops in the development) or a protest, there would be little room for complaint: that’s what you get when you privatise public spaces.

The Guardian in the past has warned about the effects already produced by this public/private mix on the shores of the River Thames, that became a “bafflingly complex labyrinth of private obstructions and municipal confusion – and a struggle over land rights that could have serious consequences for common access to the river”. Not a great prelude to what developers offer as a unique experience.

PLANNING NOT PLANNING 

The pretentious 230 pages long ‘manifesto’ on Place Making put forward by the Battersea Power Station Development Company gives paramount importance to mixed use and mixed tenancy. Despite the commitment to deliver housing (and some affordable housing) to London’s population, the Malaysian consortium that leads the development has changed its mind, switching from luxury flats to offices.

THE_PLACEBOOK

Cover page of Battersea Power Station Development Company book on ‘place making’ (2014)

Battersea Power Station Development Company have put forward an application for a change of use for Phase 3 of the project. Developers are seeking to turn two buildings, by starchitects Frank Gehry and Norman Foster, – whose flats have already been displayed for sale – from residential to office use. The Financial Times, reported the proposed change is due to a drastic drop in the prime housing market price, whereas demand for office space seems to be holding a higher value. Rob Tincknell in the Financial Times had to justify the plan: “The great thing about a long-term scheme like this is we can adjust with the markets. If there’s no residential market and a very strong office market then we will build offices”.

The same Tincknell that now praises flexibility, in the past gave an interview to Peter Watts, for his book “Up in Smoke” about the history of Battersea Power Station, making clear how Battersea Power Station Development Company came up with their surefire recipe to make Battersea the perfect place: “57% residential. Of the remaining 43% that’s about 3.4m sq ft, 1.2m retail and restaurants, 1.7m sq ft of offices and the balance in hotels, leisure and community space.” We wonder what happened to the pseudo-scientific plan for mixing uses and people in the “new place”, allegedly the result of a long consultation with local people. Maybe it wasn’t that important, since Tincknell tells the Financial Times now that “I could easily see us adding another million square feet (of office space)” and taking out a hotel and lots of residential from the scheme.

Battersea Power Station Community Group, virtually the only critical voice in the neighbourhood whose opinion has never been taken into account by the developers, have stood against the proposed plan: “The Gehry and Foster blocks should become social, affordable and mid-priced housing. There could be some office space at the lower levels. But with a housing crisis in London of unprecedented severity, these buildings should not be given over to offices in their entirety”.

Keep following our blog for updates and other contradictions produced by the big bang development of Battersea Power Station

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Battersea Power Station – The untold story of the East Wall.

According to news emanating from the developers of Battersea Power Station via the Evening Standard– Apple (the suits not the manufacturing) plan to occupy almost half of the beloved art deco building (500,000 square feet) in 2021, relocating 1,400 of its employees from Oxford Circus to Giles Gilbert Scott’s masterpiece.

Despite the expectation of a bright future, the shine has come off the PR coup as the building Apple is moving into, won’t be the Battersea Power Station, but rather a new built Battersea Fake Station. After decades of demolition by stealth, in order to provide daylight to the new office spaces, the East Wall has been demolished. The celebrated expanses of patterned brickwork will be replaced with new Art Deco-Style windows.

The historic brick work East Wall came down just a few weeks ago. It was only after the white plastic scaffold covering was removed that activists and residents realised that the East wall had gone.

East side of the Battersea Power Station without the wall - Work in Progress...

What’s left of the Battersea Power Station – The unexpected demolition of the East Wall.

Battersea Power Station and the unexpected demolition of the East wall.

View from the East side of the Power Station without the wall – Demolition in progress … (?!)

Silence in the news left everyone unaware of this latest act of heritage vandalism. Why this lack of information? And what’s the reason behind this decision to demolish? Conservation or profit?

In our film ‘Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon’, Nigel Barker, Planning and Conservation Director for London at Historic England (formerly English Heritage), described the principle of putting glazing into the East Wall as “quite challenging”.

He added: “One of the key characteristics of the power station was large blank areas of patterned brickwork.”… “If you are going to use that building, if it is going to have a new future then you are going to have to get new light in there.”…”So the decision was taken. Providing (that) the glazing is done in a way that respects and responds to the original design, then we can see it happening.”

Battersea Power Station Development Company got planning permission to put windows in the wall. But what Spectacle and the residents did not know is that they had to knock down the whole wall to realise this plan. Did Historic England know? If so, how does it fit in with their principles of conservation?

Plastic model of the Power Station redevelopment plan.

Plastic model of the Power Station redevelopment plan.

Brian Barnes, founding member of the Battersea Power Station Community Group that has fought for the protection of the site since the 1980s, said that everything has been done “behind closed doors” without any consultation. He reminds us that behind the development planning application there are over 600 documents and many subsequent “variations” which makes it hard to grasp what exactly is going on.

The lack of clarity and the broken promises leave residents and fans of the Art Deco masterpiece with many unanswered questions about the future of Battersea Power Station-  the biggest brick building in Europe.

Rob Tincknell, CEO of the Battersea Power Station Development Company, told The Guardian: “to fill the power station with shops, offices, luxury apartments and £30m-plus penthouses, and surround it with yet more apartment blocks [… is] paying for this [restoration]. You don’t just regenerate this out of thin air.” But this is not restoration: it is desecration.

It started with John Broome in the 1980s who demolished the West Wall and took off the roof. This three decades long process of demolition by stealth of the heritage site has been allowed by Wandsworth Council.

As we can see, the West Wall has never been rebuilt.  Apparently the plan is to create a glass wall so that the luxury ‘ghost’ flats can have the daylight coming through. But the questions are – Who is going to profit and at what cost to us all and to the future generations? Why have the agencies responsible for the protection of our heritage connived in this greedy exploitation of our cultural assets?

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Listen to Us: Black Survivors in the Mental Health Care System

In few days the Black History Month will finish and Spectacle is contributing to this important event by republishing an old and powerful documentary about institutionalized racism in mental health care. The documentary “Listen to Us: Black Survivors of the Mental Health Care System“, collects experiences of mental illness and the impact of institutional treatment on black people’s lives.

The trailer:

Unfortunately the experience of unlawful detention in mental health care institutions and the effects of the stereotype of being “black and dangerous” is still relevant today. We hope this document from the ’90, will raise awareness and contribute to make mental health care better.

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Battersea Power Station – what is the future?

Our film Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon, has recently been screened at Goldsmiths University, in Leiden as part of the LISFE Architecture Week, and at the 3rd International Congress on Industrial Heritage in Lisbon. These screenings have generated further interest in the tragic plight of this building and the detrimental effects of developer led conservation on listed buildings. Combined with the recent unveiling of the new Tate Modern extension, it raises questions over how the unlisted Bankside Power Station is protected by public use and interest, while the listed Battersea Power Station, still standing with just one chimney, is for private profit only.

BPS

Battersea Power Station with one fake chimney.

Keith Garner, an architect who works on the conservation of historic buildings and landscapes, is a member of the Battersea Power Station Community Group, and is featured in the film. At the Lisbon conference, Garner and Kett Murphy delivered a presentation, ‘Power Stations for the People’, which highlighted the comparison between the redevelopment of Battersea Power Station against that of Bankside Power Station, which has since become the Tate Modern. While Bankside was regenerated for recreational purposes very successfully, Battersea Power Station continues to lie at the mercy of aggressive speculative development. The contrasting redevelopment of these two buildings is crucial in understanding the issues of building preservation in an age of redevelopment.

Both Bankside and Battersea Power Station were designed by Sir Giles Gilbert Scott, described as ‘cathedrals of power’, and considered of major architectural importance. And yet, when it came to development plans for both buildings, only Bankside’s value as a potential public asset was considered. When the Tate Modern acquired the building in 1994 to house a collection of modern art, it ultimately revitalised the area, while still maintaining the original character of the building. The transition from power station to art museum is today considered a huge success. Following the gallery’s £260m revamp, which was launched on June 17, the Chairman of the Tate stated that: ‘A building that was once London’s beating heart is now its cultural cathedral.’

However, as Garner and Murphy highlighted at the Lisbon conference, the development plans for Battersea Power Station don’t seem to be focused around the preservation of a listed Art Deco building, or the drive to create another cultural space like the Tate. Under the financing of Malaysian real estate investment consortium, led by Sime Darby, the power station will be swamped by high rise, luxury apartments, enclosed in a gated community and only accessible to the public during the day. As we have previously reported, the power station itself is in danger of becoming virtually unrecognisable, with growing concern over whether the iconic chimneys will ever be rebuilt. Unlike the regeneration of the Tate Modern, whose success is ultimately based on its inclusivity and openness, Battersea, as we have tried to highlight in our film, is becoming defined by its elitism and exclusivity. Despite Boris Johnson’s pledges that property developed at the power station would be sold to Londoners first, our investigations suggest otherwise, with findings exposing that 55% of the homes sold so far actually went to foreign money.

Battersea’s ‘regeneration’ threatens to be solely for the purpose of private economic gain. As Garner asserts, the developers have taken ‘no account of its (Battersea Power Station) dignity, reverence and serenity.’ The Battersea Power Station Community Group’s plans have ultimately been realised in the Tate Modern. However, the recent Switch House extension, a 200ft pyramid-like tower featuring three new galleries and a panoramic roof terrace, just reinforces how, if re-development and preservation had started with Battersea rather than Bankside, which is a third of the size, no such extensions would have been needed. Instead, funds are raised in order for the Tate to house 60% more artworks, whilst Battersea Power Station falls into further dereliction.

Through the re-circulating of our film, these issues of developer led conservation are once again being brought to attention. The way the Tate extension is being praised for transforming the building into ‘one of the world’s cutting edge art spaces’, only emphasises the stark contrast between the two power stations. Our film remains essential in raising an awareness that heritage led regeneration cannot, ultimately, be short-circuited, and that respect for the historic environment is paramount.

Click Battersea Power Station for more blogs
See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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Calling all students – take advantage of our huge student discounts, learn filmmaking before you graduate

Are you a student, interested in documentary filmmaking, video-journalism (becoming a ‘self-shooter’), media communications and marketing, or using video for your final project or fieldwork? We pride ourselves on our affordable and efficient intensive short courses in filmmaking, video production, and video editing, and for students they are even cheaper.

training

We offer our Digital Video Production Weekend — a great introductory course for beginners — for just £180 to students (a £60 discount on the full price), and our intensive Four Day Filmmaking Course — also suitable for beginners, but ideal for consolidating and expanding on basic or self-taught skills — for £350 (£150 off).

We also have a course designed specifically for people who want to learn video skills for academic purposes — for use in fieldwork or on their final project and a course for people interested in media communications and marketing. We have courses running soon — before your final project is due! — and over the summer. If you are graduating this year and interested in pursuing a career in documentary filmmaking, self-shooter video-journalism, media communications and marketing, or academia then sign up now and we will honour the student discount even if you graduate before the course start date.

For more information see our website, or email Charlotte at training@spectacle.co.uk to discuss which course would be best for you.

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LGBT History on Film: Pride 1991

Twenty five years ago Despite TV filmed the documentary, ‘Out of Line’, on the subject of London Pride 1991. Having already taken an interest in documenting the LGBT (Lesbian Gay Bisexual and Transgender) political struggle as it was happening (Despite Clause 28 – 1988). This longer documentary film takes a celebratory approach to the community’s political and social wins.

The events of 1988 seem almost forgotten as 25,000 LGBT activists and allies gathered in London to take part in Pride 1991. The event, a march through the streets of central London ending with a party in Kennington park, had grown in popularity since 1988, thanks to activist groups such as LGSM (Lesbians and Gays Support the Miners) and Stonewall who worked hard to achieve greater acceptance, giving more people the courage to come out, even if just for one day.

Opening with footage of the celebrations on the streets of London, the film gradually takes on a more political tone, interviewing individuals about their experiences of homophobia and discrimination. The filmmakers talk to the Lewisham Lesbian Mothers group, who march in the parade with children and babies in tow. One woman is interviewed about her struggles conceiving and raising a child as a lesbian mother – a subject rarely discussed in the early 1990s.

The film also incorporates several interviews with BME (Black and Minority Ethnic) LGBT individuals and groups, who discuss the particular challenges they face living at the intersections of numerous forms of oppression – often facing homophobia in Black communities, and racism in LGBT communities.

As well as being an insight into London Pride from 25 years ago, the film succinctly summarises the struggles still faced by LGBT people in 1991, and the social and political strides they had made in changing a society which dismissed them.

The full film is available to rent or buy here.
A DVD of the film is also available here.

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Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon

We are pleased to announce the launch of the film Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon.

Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon from Spectacle Media on Vimeo.

Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon tells the story of Battersea Power Station from its prominence as a site of industrial power through the years of dereliction, speculation and planning blight to the replacement of the chimneys under the current scheme – a key example of developer-led preservation.

Filmed over 15 years, Spectacle’s new documentary follows the grassroots campaigns of Battersea Power Station Community Group to preserve the building for the public good. It takes us straight to the heart of the current conservation debate about whether – and how – historic buildings should be preserved, governed, modified or replaced, and ‘who’ they belong to.

Battersea Power Station: Selling an Icon is unique in raising awareness to the plight of historic building preservation in an age of aggressive ‘big business’ redevelopment and gives voice to the local communities, rarely consulted and often overlooked.

The project was made possible by World Monuments Fund through support from American Express.

The film is available for free private viewing for individuals. Institutions and libraries can buy or rent the film on Vimeo on Demand.

It is also possible to purchase a DVD on our web page.

Watch more videos on Battersea Power Station
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See our Battersea Power Station project pages for more information and videos.

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Four day course receives excellent feedback, inspires new filmmakers

Trying to decide which course is best for you?

We asked former participants, Sophie Parker and Oscar Wilson, for some extra feedback including why they took the 4 day course and how it has benefited them.

oscarmarksophie

Right to left: Sophie Parker, tutor Mark Saunders and Oscar Wilson on site at the course project.

SOPHIE

Why did you choose the four day course?

I chose the four day course because I had been considering getting into documentary film making and wanted to do a course that was suitable for beginners.

What did you like most about the course?

“I liked that it was slightly longer than the weekend courses so [I] learnt more and got to do a mini project, I liked the size of the group which meant you really felt like you were getting one to one tuition and always had something to do, it also meant the group bonded and really helped each other out.

Since completing the course, have you had the opportunity to use the skills you learned?

I haven’t had the opportunity to use my skills yet but I have made arrangements to do some work experience at another production company where I hope to further hone the skills I have acquired and be able to go onto producing my own films.

Would you recommend the four day course to other people and if so, who?

I would definitely recommend the four day course to anyone that had a slight interest in film production whether as a career or as a hobby.

OSCAR

oscar2

Why did you choose the four day course?

I was asked whether I wanted to take part in the course as training for a future project.

What did you like most about the course?

What I liked most about the course was the indepth nature of it. The fact that I was taught the essentials so if I wanted to go out and film a documentary now I could – not to the standard of a seasoned professional, however I have the tools, I just need the seasoning!

What has stayed with you the most?

I don’t know what has stayed with me the most because I don’t feel like it has ended in a way, I’m still trying to hone in on all the learning that was done.

Since completing the course, have you had the opportunity to use the skills you learned?

Since completing the course I have begun to use various aspects of the course in order to continue working on a documentary project. First, essential organisation and creating a cooperative atmosphere with your subjects – this is something that I feel is not offered as part of your average course. Therefore if you want the gems in how to go about things – go to Spectacle.

What are your plans for the future?

My plans for the future are at the moment beginning with the raw: “GET A CAMERA” ASAP! Then there is not much to hold me back – maybe some sound equipment then I can tackle any subject I can get close enough to!

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Interview: Spectacle training ‘demystified’ the filmmaking process

Spectacle has been offering flexible, efficient and affordable training based at our Lavender Hill office in South London for several years. In that time, we’ve had all kinds of people come through our doors, and the feedback we’ve received at the end of the courses has been overwhelmingly positive. Recently, however, we wondered exactly what our trainees have taken away from our particular approach to teaching in the long run. We sought out Michaela Benson, Senior Lecturer in Sociology at Goldsmiths, University of London, a few months after she finished our Digital Video Production for Anthropologists & Social Researchers training weekend to discuss this.

Why did you choose digital video production skills? 

I do a lot of research in people’s houses looking at their relations with the wider residential environment… video can offer a way of introducing participatory elements into an academic research project, and can capture the visual experience of a research setting. I also think that it introduces a different way of communicating findings to our audiences. I wanted to develop these skills so I could apply them myself and start experimenting.

What did you like most about our course?

The way it demystified the process of video-recording and taught me some fail safe basics that are transferable not only into future video work, but also into my everyday use of cameras. I feel that my understanding of video production and the skills involved in this have undoubtedly benefited.

What has stayed with you the most?

The simple understanding of how to frame a shot has been invaluable, and I feel as though it is becoming second-nature.

Now you’ve learned these skills, what’s next?

I’m looking forward to applying my new skills to my current project on self-build in the coming months.

Why do you think researchers should be engaging more with digital video?

I think that video offers additional ways of capturing research data, to be analysed later, and also opens up possibilities for different modes of engagement and communication.

Would you recommend the course to someone else?

I would definitely recommend the course. It broke the process of production into small steps that were easy to remember. Also, having a chance to put these into practice made me realise the benefits of this approach. This is a course that is perfect for anyone who wants to make a start at looking at including video production in their work.

You can find out more about our Digital Video Production for Anthropologists & Social Researchers training weekend here, including upcoming dates and fees.
If you’re interested in documentary film making but you’re not a researcher, we have a range of other courses that may interest you. All our training courses apply the same ‘fail safe’, ‘small steps’ approach to give you the confidence to pick up a video camera and start shooting.

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Kilner House showing at the Made Possible by Squatting exhibition

Our 1981 documentary Kilner House has been selected for the Made Possible by Squatting exhibition held in a squatted building.

Kilner House in Kennington was occupied as part of the Squat against Sales campaign against the first Greater London Council house sales.

Keywebland

The exhibition will run from 9th-16th of September at 15 Dock Street E1 8JN. During this time stories and histories will be collected into an on-line archive.  There are over 30 pieces going into the exhibition from interactive mapping of London squat history, to puppet performances, to some great documentary films, installations and pop-up books!

There will also be a rota to have people in the space at all times.

Made Possible by Squatting seeks submissions for an on-line archive that collectively celebrates how squatting has positively affected the lives of individuals & communities in London.

See our interviews with anti-squat company Camelot who lobbied in Netherlands, France and UK for squatting to be made a criminal offence.

See our Spectacle Catalogue for buying Kilner House.
See our blog homepage for more information and videos.
Or visit PlanA our general blog on urbanism, planning and architecture.

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