Concrete Heart Land exposes the social cleansing of the Heygate Estate in Elephant and Castle, South London. It marks the moment that the estate was finally lost as social housing to make way for an unjust 'regeneration' scheme. Over the course of 2012 and 2013, we filmed panoramic video images of the estate and interiors of some of the Heygate flats, both of which feature in the film. These images are of the estate as it was at its end, blighted by Southwark Council's lack of maintenance and their leasing of it as a film set for 'grimy', 'urban' and 'dystopian' cinematic settings. Assembled from 12 years of archive materials, our film charts the struggles of the local community to keep their homes, stay living in the area, and maintain communal benefits in the face of extreme development pressures. Throughout the film we hear the community engaging in some of the crucial battles with elected officials, planners and barristers, in municipal planning meetings, public enquiries and interviews.
Inserted among these recordings are various sections of a performance we staged in 2012 on the then still-inhabited estate. An assembled group of past and present residents, community activists and critics of the Heygate plans, chant texts composed from phrases used in the Regeneration Masterplan. The performance parodies the technical language of regeneration and the aspirational language of gentrification.
Having evicted the last residents in November 2013, Southwark Council has finally demolished the entire estate and the land is currently a building site for new luxury flats. In April 2015, following a three-year legal battle, the council and developer were ordered to disclose the financial viability assessment for the scheme. This revealed that the developer Lend Lease grossly overestimated the financial risk and underestimated the profitability of the scheme to undermine Southwark Council's statutory 35% quota for affordable housing. The result is that Lend Lease succeeded in drastically reducing the amount of social housing being built.
Pressure to bring forth the wider gentrification of the area continues at the nearby Aylesbury estate. Ignoring the 2001 stock transfer ballot of residents, which returned an overwhelming rejection of proposed estate redevelopment, Southwark Council and Notting Hill Housing Trust are forcing through 'regeneration' without a mandate. This has met with heavy local resistance, including a two-month protest occupation of Aylesbury flats within the aggressively secured and cordoned off 'first development site'.
The occupation ended on 2nd April 2015 with hundreds of local residents tearing down sections of the hated purple fence, which had become symbolic of the violence of regeneration. See Aylesbury Tenants First and Fight for the Aylesbury for more information.
The Compulsory Purchase Order public inquiry relating to the leaseholders on the FDS concluded on 15th October 2015 at 'Arry's Bar - the football supporters' club at Millwall Football Ground. See the write-ups outlining the great objections by leaseholders, community members and experts here:
In September 2016, the secretary of state rejected the CPO heartening all communities facing social cleansing across the city. At present Southwark Council has announced that it will challenge the judgement in the High Court.
The struggle continues.
Steven Ball & Rastko Novaković
for more information, resources, and other projects see:
People's Republic of Southwark | Better Elephant | Southwark Notes | 35 percent campaign
Elephant Amenity Network | Home Sweet Home | Larry and Janet Move Out | Heygate Was Home | Sherry Ostapovitch Sound Works | Ghost Town | Watchful Eye on Aylesbury Estate
Fight for the Aylesbury | Bullfight by Rosie Morris
Concrete Heart Land screenings
If you would like to arrange a screening and discussion email: email@example.com
22 December 2016 - Open Space, Vienna, Austria
7 - 9 September 2016 - IIPPE (International Initiative for Promoting Political Economy), Lisbon
17 January 2016 - Whose London is it Anyway? Camden People's Theatre
20 September 2015 - Deptford Cinema
5 September 2015 - Bloc Projects, Sheffield
27 August 2015 - London as Battlefield, BFI Southbank
- see the post-screening discussion here
8 August 2015 - Closed House Weekend: Stop the Blocks, no.w.here, Bethnal Green
12 June 2015 - Mapping Displacement and Resistance, Goldsmiths, New Cross
29 May 2015 - LATEWI, Camberwell College of Art, London
27 May 2015 - Crisis Mirror, Copenhagen, Denmark
12 April 2015 - Centre for Contemporary Arts, Glasgow
20 March 2015 - Real Estates, Peer Gallery, London
15 March 2015 - Aylesbury Estate Occupation
4 March 2015 - Documentary Research Forum, London College of Communication
27 January 2015 - Queen Mary University of London
31 October 2014 - Cities Methodologies, UCL, London
18 September 2014 - Community Food Growers Network, Papa's Cafe, Brixton
16 September 2014 - No to MIPIM meeting organised by Radical Housing Network and UNITE Community, London
2 September 2014 - Contested Cities Film Festival, Leeds
19 July 2014 - Southwark Notes Regeneration Rip-off @ Elephant & Castle
17 July 2014 - Reel News: Fighting Gentrification, The Grosvenor, Stockwell
18 June 2014 - Nottingham Contemporary
7 June 2014 - People's Republic of Southwark, Pembroke House, 80 Tatum Street SE17 1QR
2 June 2014 - Perronet House Tenants & Residents Association, please email us for details
30 May 2014 - Cinema6, Arcadia Missa, Peckham
14 May 2014 - New State, Liberal Club, Peckham
12 March 2014 - Southwark Commons, Feminist Library, Southwark
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(digital video, 25 mins, 2014)
a film by Steven Ball and Rastko Novaković
Sound Design by Mark Durham
Additional Camera by Nic Wassell
Creative Commons Attribution - No Derivative Works 3.0
also available for viewing and download at the Internet Archive
download MPEG4 for best quality