Oral History Transcripts – Reimagining Goldfinger
Tanya: It’s Saturday the 30th of July 2016. We are here with SPID as part of the Reimagining Goldfinger Project. I’m Tanya.
Boris: I’m Boris.
Monselo: And I’m Monselo.
Tanya: And we’re here with Annette. Annette, can I just have your full name, please.
Annette: Annette Kellow.
Tanya: And could you spell that for me as well?
Annette: A-N-N-E-T-T-E K-E-L-L-O-W
Tanya: And could you tell me when and where you were born, please?
Annette: When and where? I was born 1985, in Ilfracombe, Devon so [laughs] I can actually even do the Devon accent [laughs]. Yes.
Tanya: Okay. That’s fantastic and we’ll dive straight in.
Boris : Do you live in the Trellick Tower?
Annette: I used to live in the Trellick Tower but I leave at the bottom of Golborne Road now. A lot of my friends still live in the Trellick.
Boris: Can you tell us more of how you started living and why you started living in the Trellick Tower?
Annette: I had a time in between flats and I was staying in the Balfron Tower which is the sister in East London but it was really quite horrible. It was my friend’s [laughs]– the area, I mean, it’s scary as a woman going home at night, it wasn’t very nice. But then I had lived in Notting Hill, before that, all my time in London so I was like, “oh, my god, the Trellick, maybe there’s one in there” and then I just found, luckily, it was just– found an available flat because they are very rare that they come up, to rent even, and then I just moved across.
Boris: Could I interrupt just for a second. I just want to check that mic because–.
Annette: Because I’ve moved it.
Boris: Yes. If you just might– May I?
Boris: It might be touching. That’s better.
Boris: Sorry to interrupt.
Tanya: That’s okay.
Tanya: She’s back over to you.
Boris: When and how long did you spend in that house?
Annette: I was there for about two and a half years or so. And before I had lived in the flat, two people had died in the flat, which was lovely.
Annette: Well, actually, I thought it was quite sweet because they were old and they were couple and they’d lived in the Trellick since it had arrived and so it was quite sweet. They both died within a week together [laughs].
Boris: Do you know more about this?
Annette: I don’t know that much. I just know that they moved in when the Trellick opened and they stayed here the whole time, and I know that they bought the flat as well.
Boris: Can you tell us a bit more about your time in the tower?
Annette: Yes. The tower is a magical place, I think, because the people there are different to a normal tower in London. I think everybody talks to each other and knows a lot about each other and sometimes people gossip behind people’s [laughs] backs, but a a lot of the time it’s all very friendly. But it has a sort of magical air and I think with the history of it it’s really amazing.
I found a few weird things, a few weird things happened when I lived in the tower. My second week of living there, it was about midnight and my flatmate was out and two men knocked on the door and said, “it’s the police, open the door.” But they sounded a bit weird, to be honest, so I looked through the spy hole and it was like two guys in hoods and I was like, “no, sorry I’m not going to open the door,” and they started trying to kick the door down. It was really really scary. Really, I was like screaming. I found my phone and I called the police and then they ran off. So you might just think, “oh, they want to come and burgle the flat,” but it was very weird because it was like, why did they come to the flat? they came to the reception and said, “oh, we’re here to see flat 116,” it was my flat and they are not supposed to let them up. And then they were practicing, I had to watch the CCTV back in the lift, and they were practicing what they were going to do and they called somebody and said, “we are here”. I was like, “oh, my god, does somebody want to kill me?”
That was my first weird thing about the Trellick, appart from that [laughs] it was amazing and it was really safe and it was really fun, and I made lots of friends and I was always like, two of my very good friends still live there and I scoured people’s houses for tea parties and things like that. It was nice. That was just one little scary thing [laughs].
Monselo: It sounds like that one scary experience didn’t take away from that magical allure of the tower. Could you share more about any of the memorable moments that you had in the tower?
Annette: I made a short documentary when I lived in the tower. That was quite fun. Which was shown at the Portobello Film Festival, and that was kind of me and my flatmates. I just started filming us every day, and my flatmates got very used to the camera being there. So we created these kind of memories and we used to follow each other around the tower, sometimes we’d make little clips around the tower. That was quite a fun thing to do and it’s great because now I have the memories of that flat. And even my flatmates became very comfortable with the camera. One broke up with her boyfriend, he dumped her on Valentines day, she’s crying about it and talking, and so you kind of got with these snippets of our lives, memories that I probably wouldn’t even think about now. Its nice to have it on film [laugh], yes.
There is lots of quacky characters in the tower as well. A couple of pervs, you know, you’ve got to have a couple of pervs [laughs]. One is the caretaker and I shouldn’t say that. There is a kind of interesting characters, sweet old ladies that have been there for ages and they love talking, and like one had some vintage clothes once and she gave me a few bits because she knows I love vintage. There’s these different characters that you meet and it’s amazing because they are all together in the same block.
Boris: if you don’t mind me asking, if you pick your favorite character or one of them, can you tell us a bit more about?
Annette: Oh, my god. That’s really hard.
Boris: Or most memorable character?
Annette: Yes. I mean, there is loads of really funny ones but I don’t want to say [laughs], I’m trying to think. I’d probably say one that I relate to most probably would be– I don’t know what her name is, but it’s one of the old ladies that lives there, the one that gave me the vintage things. Maybe because she always talks to me in the lift, which you probably have people do that quite a lot. They talk and it’s really funny because [laughs] you seem to know things about people’s lives.
Tanya: Has Trellick Towers influenced your life in any way and if so, how?
Annette: It’s definitely influenced my life because I still feel a very strong attraction to it, so I still feel very drawn to it and the people. I’ve never lived in London somewhere where people are so friendly and would say, “oh, do you want to come to my flat?” Or if you talk about something you need or, they would help and that is a really nice feeling. And I know the tower sometimes has a bad reputation for like, anywhere where there’s people all pulled together in a short and small space, I think there will be things like that but generally, I think, people are nice. And when the carnival is on, it’s amazing [laughs].
Tanya: And do you think the redevelopment may alter that community spirit that’s alive in the Trellick at the moment?
Annette: Because they are trying to– What are they trying to do exactly? Do you mean the private flats or do you mean what other things they are trying to do?
Tanya: Yes, the private flats that are to be built.
Annette: Where? Out there?
Annette: On the football thing?
Annette: I think it’s going to be sad in a way, because I think that space could be used for better things. They’ve already built Portobello Square and knocked down all those– that’s right by where I live. I don’t know if you know down there, they are doing a redevelopment down there and it’s just like these boring flats which have no style or architecture or anything interesting about them. Obviously they’re going to sell them for lots. I suppose the flip side of that coin is they can say, “oh, well, it can be used for things in the community,” but I think there is too many big bad guys at the top that don’t really care about that [laughs]. I don’t think it’s a good thing.
Tanya: What do you think about the architectural value of Trellick Tower and Cheltenham Estate as a whole.
Annette: I think the Estate and Trellick has lots of value because I don’t think– The thing with the Trellick is this, the story behind it, there’s Goldfinger and his story. I think, not just the look of the building, but when people read into it, they love his story too. I think it’s multidimensional and I don’t know much about the Chel– is it Chel–?
Tanya: Cheltenham Estate.
Annette: Yes, I don’t know much about that [laughs], but that’s that all around here or is over there?
Tanya:That’s Trellick and Edenham Way
Annette: Oh, okay, I don’t know much about the Estate, but I know for Trellick, I think, they’ll never get rid of it. People might buy out the flats, but it will always have that kind of magic essence of where it came from. At the time, he was not– it was told as very sort of– a lot of people called it Terra Towers and they thought it was great back, but I think now it’s become something else.
Boris: You talk about some of those characters, and you talk about meeting people who lived. Was that the only way you met them, or were there other ways that you met people in the tower?
Annette: Mainly I just met people in the lift to chat to and along the corridor, but some people along the corridor you would– it’s like any people at work, you click more with certain characters or whatever. Some people you’d meet in the lift and then, yes, you become friends with them.
Boris: What floor were you?
Annette: I was on the 15th floor.
Boris: How long will the lift take to get from zero to 15?
Annette: Depends if it was working or not correctly [laughs]. No need, just I don’t know, 30 seconds or something? not very bad, but when I was there they were changing the lifts. For a while there was only one, I think, lift or was it two lifts working and they were changing them? Because they were so old, the parts were Italian or something, so they couldn’t get them anymore because they didn’t make them, they have to import them from Italy. They’re like, “we just need new lifts”. I don’t know why they had Italian lifts, but they did then.
Boris: Try to imagine these conversations that last 30 seconds, but lead you to someone’s doing while them to you.
Annette: It depends if the lifts stops as well, because then you talk for ages, for a few minutes sometimes. If it stops at every stop, then it’s different. Also, sometimes when you get to the bottom you carry on talking as you go outside and things like that.
Boris: But they weren’t any social structure as such that you were involved with them, any room that you would go to? a social room that you would go to to [inaudible 00:12:55] as well.
Annette: No, just go to people’s flats.
Tanya: You mentioned that you lived on the 15th floor, some people have described living in Trellick as living in the sky. What is living in Trellick to you?
Annette: Living in Trellick is like being out to see your whole landscape. I think that’s really refreshing, and you can see for miles, and I think, living in the sky, if that’s what we would call it, it kind of feels clear, I don’t know. It’s interesting because you can just look out and you just feel like everything’s nice when you can look out far and see a beautiful view and then you can also see so many things happening through the year. Bonfire nights and you can see it all across London, and Christmas, you can see lights. So you feel like you’re looking down on a little picture sometimes [laughs].
Boris: Do you have any views about the graffiti area around the back?
Annette: I think the graffiti area is really nice, I think it’s great. I know it was in the play as well, radio play. I think, there should be more things like that for young people or older big babies [laughs] to go and have fun and explore and be creative. That’s why I think they should do– I know they have the gardening thing across the road as well, now, to learn gardening. I think they should have more things like that for, not just young people, but people to try new things. I think, sports and art, and things like that, it’s really important, so it’s a shame if it’s going.
Boris: It seems those– a fair amount of parks in some ways associated with the people around and in the tower. Do you think that’s the case or do you think that’s maybe just some individuals or do you have like a view that maybe there is like an artistic community in some ways in the tower?
Annette: I think there’s an eccentric view in the tower and probably an artistic view, sometimes both, but I think the characters are almost not real sometimes. If I’ve told, I know I’ve told people stories before about a certain, like, “oh, my god, you’ll never guess what they did or–.” There’s one woman in the tower who always wears all yellow, and we call her Miss Sherbert. I always say things that she said to me, I’ll mention to people and they’ll be like, “a person that wears all yellow, that’s like ridiculous, like they didn’t really do that.” I’m like, “no, she does.” So I think the characters are larger than life, and some of them are eccentric, a lot of them are artistic too. Maybe it’s a bit, I don’t know, comparison would be perhaps and then if you heard of the Chelsea Hotel, the people are a bit crazy of it. Where everyone that moved into the Chelsea Hotel were like artist, so they were eccentric or– I think it does have that sort of essence to it, something different.
Boris: I’d like to go back to that break-in, if I could, or attempted break-in.
Annette: [laughs] I can laugh about it now.
Boris: You started up by saying, this is a magical place and then you tell us about that.
Annette: Yes, well, I suppose what I want to say is, it is a magical place. I’m not going to move away from somewhere just because of something like that, but that’s not the only thing that’s happened there with other flats. I definitely think, it’s like yin and yang, where there’s beauty there’s something very ugly as well sometimes. I think that’s kind of got back within it too. There would be other stories, like somebody said, “oh, the whole flat got robbed or whatever. They took a white screen television,” but the CCTV showed nobody leaving with a white screen television. Obviously, that was somebody in the block that had burgled the neighbour or something. [laughs] I’m telling you all the bad stories today, but it is a magical place, nothing will take that away. If you think what it used to be like when obviously I wasn’t there, but I’ve heard, you’ve probably researched it for you project that there was worst things [laughs].
Boris: When you say magical, what do you mean?
Annette: When I say magical, I think when you feel something differently when you go into a place and you feel, not like transformed, but you feel heightened in your senses, then I describe that as magical because it’s unique. Not just the look, not just the people, it’s a mixture, combination.
Tanya: Can you expand on how Trellick elevated you? Was it the structure itself or the individuals?
Annette: I would probably say, I feel Trellick elevated me, yes, in a combination of those things. I felt the people are very friendly whereas– even though that thing happened [laughs], hopefully that was made over. I felt the people were friendly so, I felt there was kindness. I think when you feel kindness with your neighbours that is how people should really live instead of having enemies. I feel I had kind neighbours and friends there, and I also felt it was nice because I work from home a lot. I could sit in the window and look out and you’d be inspired and you’d sort of see all the other things going on. That was another thing that elevated me. Just the fun of the building and the stories, and something was always happening, that was always good.
Tanya: We’d love to know how Trellick has inspired your work and what else do you do?
Annette: I think, Trellick inspires me, I don’t know how much of it is in my work. Obviously, I did the documentary, which was really fun. I think the place is amazing and I think the place you did were great. But I just feel living in it is inspiring and or when I did live in it [laughs]. Now I just have a small garden to look out to, it’s not the same [laughs].
Tanya: Okay, I was going to ask, when you lived there?
Annette: So I left in 2013 so, yes.
Tanya: And you moved in?
Annette: End of 2010.
Tanya: And you lived with flatmates, is that right?
Annette: I had flatmates yes. I had one, then we had two, in a spare room.
Tanya: Do you remember particular days with your flatmates in the flat?
Annette: [laughs] Oh, my god, too many funny times, I am trying to think. Okay, so there was one, on Valentine’s Day, the one we were kind of filming, one of my flatmates got really sick and had to– it’s kind of funny now, sort of bittersweet, but we had to phone the ambulance because she said like she could not see, I do not know why, she just like was really run down and she was really dizzy. You know when you call 911 and they are like, “Oh my God, you know, you are dying,” no, they said they [laughs] they couldn’t make an ambulance to come around. And then at the same time my other flatmate came with this crushed rose, going, “it dumped me” and [laughs] so I was like in the middle trying to help. My other flatmate like, came with the paramedic and then the other one was crying with a crushed rose and it was Valentine’s Day and you don’t do on Valentine’s Day, not very nice. So, in that way it was sad but we always stuck together and I think that is nice when you have flatmates because you can–. We used to have something as well which we called dirtydinners.com, which is when you are feeling very lazy, we used to go down to George’s, did you got that? This fish and chip shop down there. I think it’s been going for ages, hasn’t it?
Sixties or so, it’s an old fish and chip shop. Anyway, we would have dirtydinners.com and just go down there, like fish and chips and eggs and like, then we just like lie in a comma. [laughs] I am telling you all the bigs today [laughs].
Boris: Could I ask why you left?
Annette: I left because the people who owned it obviously gave it to their daughter and she sold it, but we did try to not get anyone to buy it for ages. So we would try little tricks when people came to view because we did not want to leave [laughs], which is funny [laughs].
Boris: What did you do?
Annette: So one of my flatmates smoked, normally on the balcony. But, I do not know if you know, in Trellick when you go in the toilet, you open the covert and there is the whole toilets, you can’t get up those things, tiny little whole thing. But she would go in the bathroom just before they arrived, open the covert thing and smoke fag, and then they’d come and they’d open it, be like a cloud of smoke which blew all the people upstairs, smoking again as disgusting and then they would be like, “No,” and [laughs] that was quite a funny thing. We’d be like [laughs] doing yoga and, we were just pretend yoga we weren’t really doing it, and then we would be there like, “Don’t mind us,” and then we would be like into some weird positions, and they looked like, “my god, who are these weirdos?” So, yes, we tried our best but obviously– then we would leave it like really messy if they were coming. Somebody didn’t get it, they didn’t mind smoke coming down the toilet shaft [laughs].
Tanya: Why didn’t you want to leave?
Annette: Because we love living there and it was a quite reasonable rent and it was fun, and we also knew they’re very rare that flats come up to rent there because they’re normally either selling them or they– you know, council flats, so they’re not for normal people to rent.
Tanya: And how did you feel when you eventually had to leave?
Annette: I felt sad because I did not want to go, but I suppose it’s like anything, you have to close the chapter. I mean, luckily, I have made so many good friends there that I go there nearly every week so I can get my fix [laughs]. But, yes, it’s so amazing but, you know, that’s just the way it was.
Tanya: There’s 217 flats in Trellick, can you tell us what it feels like to be living somewhere with that amount of people?
Annette: Yes, living beside that many people, you do not hear anyone so you do not think—you will think, “Oh, my God, you are going to hear like banging or like–,” but because the concrete is really thick, you cannot hear anybody, so you do not feel like too weeded out or like they are invading your space. I know so because the flats go out up and down, you also do not feel like, “oh, I can hear my neighbour or see him on the balcony” or things like that. Occasionally, if you were on the balcony you might see– some odd things came down, actually, you’d see people throw things off the balcony sometimes. I had a nappy go past ones [laughs], bits of food, I think people eat their food and then they might, “that’s quite good for the ground those,” [laughs]. That was quite funny, you’d be like, “oh, nappy” [laughs]. But I didn’t mind living close to other people, I thought it was nice.
Boris: Is that it? Thank you very much.
Annette: Okay thank you [laughs]. Great.
Boris: I left [inaudible 00:26:26].
Annette: Yes, Dorothy loves you [laughs].
Boris: Really? Yes [inaudible 00:26:30] [laughs].
Annette: Sleeping. What are you going to use this for, by the way? I ask afterwards.
Tanya: So you has not been told, is it? It is going to be used for our project on theatre.
Boris: It might be used in some of our projects in like theatre films.
Annette: Great, so you are going kind of incorporate?
Annette: That sounds lovely.
Tanya: We are just documenting the lives of the residents in Trellick Tower and Cheltenham Estate in general and finding out their opinions, their history, their relationship with the Estate as a whole and just collecting and material work. Your interview we may or may not use but we got that source to draw upon when ready.
Annette: Yes, ready.
Tanya: In our project here. It was a pleasure to have you.
Annette: No worries, thank you, I’d love to hear more when you do more, sounds great.
Tanya: We got a form here for you to sign after.
[00:27:34] [END OF AUDIO]
Marcella: Good morning.
Leslie: Good morning.
Marcella: I’m Marcella, and I’ll be conducting today’s interview. Could you start by stating your name, please, first name?
Leslie: My name’s Leslie Banks.
Marcella: Could you spell that, please?
Leslie: L-E-S-L-I-E B-A-N-K-S.
Marcella: Your place of birth?
Marcella: Your date of birth?
Leslie: 29th of June, 1962.
Marcella: And your occupation?
Leslie: Chief Executive, Goldfinger Factory.
Marcella: Okay, got a very lavish place here. How long have you worked here?
Leslie: I’ve only been here about five months.
Leslie: Working here. I actually started as a trustee at the organization. I’ve worked for a company called Nu Line, which is a big Builders Merchant based about a mile away from here, a community based, family business. I used to be their Operations Manager, and I set up a community outreach project, where we would work with organizations that got involved with training practical skills. Because as a Builders Merchant, all the products we do only get sold to people who use them, we don’t do any installation work.
We found there was a gap in the market for well trained, young people joining carpentry, painting and decorating, electricians and plumbers. We ended up dealing with, only at Goldfinger because they were setting up an academy to train youngsters in the community in practical skills. I went from being an advisor, then a trustee, and then looking after their — back of their office, which is health and safety, insurances and that sort of thing.
Marcella: Okay, lovely, and how do you find the location, for instance?
Leslie: It’s fascinating. I can remember, because I’m very old, Trellick Tower actually being built. I was born in Greenford, which is just down the end of the canal. I used to walk past here when I was about seven or eight years old with my granddad, watching this building being built. We would go to the carnivore in the early days. I can remember when, across the road, if I remember rightly, the Victorian slums and Trellick was being topped out by the time I got to about eight or nine years old.
I can remember this area quite well. It’s quite ironic how I ended up now back in social enterprise based in Trellick Tower.
Marcella: Fascinating. How do you feel regarding the new building that will be -?
Leslie: Well, be honest, I only found out about it only two days ago. One of our customers mentioned it, and then we had some — a couple who live in Trellick Tower popped in yesterday about something completely different and they got talking about it. That’s really the first time I’ve found out about it.
Marcella: How do you feel about it?
Leslie: I suppose, mixed feelings. This area’s always been changing, developing. I suppose we can’t change “change”. I personally, have always had a fond attachment to Trellick Tower because it’s been a constant in my life because I’ve always worked in West London.
Marcella: How do you feel about the new development?
Leslie: As I said, I didn’t find out about it until a couple days ago, and Trellick’s always been an interesting, iconic landmark for me in my life. I spent most of my time living and working in Northwest London because it was so much bigger than everything else. Every time I was anywhere, I could always see Trellick Tower. Redevelopment meant, I suppose, personally, because of — one of the reasons I used to come down here as a child was because of the mix.
It was so interesting, we never saw any other part of London like this. There were just so many different cultures, particularly around Carnivore in the early days. As long as we can keep that, then I suppose, any change is acceptable. This particular project, I just don’t know enough about until yesterday. I even found out what they were building. It does seem to be they’re trying to squeeze something into a very small space without too much thought.
Without seeing the full set of plans, it can be difficult to comment on it. I suppose, nobody likes change. I suppose, if it’s organized properly and everybody’s happy with it, I presume, there’s been some form of firm working with the local community, about designs and the plans, but as I said it’s not something I’ve seen because it’s not something I even knew about.
Marcella: What affect do feel that would have on your business?
Leslie: I don’t think will going to affect us one way or the other, personally. We tend to work with a very small community group. We tend to work with people who live within one or two miles of the building, all the communities that we work with either as trainees, volunteers, or working with craftsman here, come from that locality. I don’t see that really changing as far as we’re concerned. Our new developments with our new academy will stay exactly the same.
Now, we’ve thought — we’re turning a minimum of a third of our profits straight back to the community, will stay exactly the same. Personally, I don’t see it affecting us, but until I know more about the scheme, it’s a bit difficult to say.
Marcella: Okay. Thank you very much. Is there anything else that you would like to add or you would like me to ask?
Leslie: No, not really. As I said, I grew up in London. Watching this building being built, it’s nice to be back into an area where I was when I was incredibly young. It’s interesting to see how much hasn’t changed, but also, how much has changed. I can remember when the Canal Studio Complex was being built because I was working on the alarm systems on that, and that must have been the early ‘80s and see how that road has completely changed, how that’s developed.
It was interesting. It’s also interesting seeing how, not only as the diverse the cultural and artistic infrastructure around the area has developed, but how it’s actually grown into different directions. Amazes me the level of artistic and creative talents there are around here. It’s something that’s really impressed me, and it still does. I love the fact that, every day somebody walks in, has got brilliant ideas, and are incredibly creative. It’s almost like they don’t know that they’re creative.
Marcella: Do you feel that the redevelopment may have a [inaudible 00:06:58] effect of that creativity in them?
Leslie: I suppose, all you’re doing is bringing in more people of a different mix. The area always had combinations of different ethnic and cultural backgrounds. I suppose, this is just another one. It’s hard to pre-judge anything like that, but to me, that’s just an ongoing process has been going on for 60, 70, 80 years.
Marcella: Well, thank you very much. Thank you.
Leslie: My pleasure.
Interviewer 1: Can you just tell me more about your take on the cultural and ethnic diversity around here with memories of how that’s developed?
Leslie: How it’s developed. When I was very, very young, the main thing we came up for was Carnivore. Carnivore, back then, was actually quite small. I would come up on a Sunday and it was great fun, as a kid, it was like being in a giant party all day long. I haven’t been — I came to about seven or eight when I was younger, and then for some reason you grow up and don’t things, I came back about ten years ago and went to one.
Funny enough, my current wife, who had just married, she was a policewoman on duty, and somebody just mentioned it. We bonded up, and it changed completely. I couldn’t believe the number of people you can squeeze into such a small space and how loud it is. That’s obviously getting old, things obviously gets very loud. That changed dramatically. When I was working at Nu-Line, obviously, we closed down over the whole weekend for Carnivore.
That’s changed an awful lot. It seemed a lot more commercial now than it used to. It seemed a lot more personal, almost like, it was a group of friends having a party rather than now. It seems to be a lot of big companies sponsoring things. In general, I suppose, from cultural point of view, it’s just different cultures moving in to areas. I can remember quite a little Portuguese when I was younger, because I had a friend of the family he was Portuguese, so I did a little Portuguese up here.
Then there was a little Spanish and, obviously, Afro-Caribbean was the thing that always struck usually because of the color. It was fantastic growing up and looking at — I’ve never seen — at Carnivore, the thing that amazed me, these costumes as a kid you’ve never seen anything like that, and we didn’t have a television. That was very interesting. You like seeing new colors for the first time. I was an Artist when I was up until about 16 or 17 I used to paint a lot.
That stayed with me for a very, very long time. I suppose now, we’ve got more North African influences, which is interesting because of the new foods and flavors that’s very interesting, and you see that in the street food, which I don’t remember from years ago. I find that fascinating.
Marcella: Can you tell us about how you feel about the Graffiti Area just anything?
Leslie: I love the Graffiti Area, we do a lot of tours. One of the things we do when people come in and you sell them your social enterprise and you’re recycling material and try to get people from the community develop skills. The first thing we do is to take them to tour, the workshop downstairs and the backdoor is always open. You take them out and show them Trellick Tower and you show them the Graffiti Park. I love the Graffiti Park I think is fascinating. My friend of mine who I used to work with at Nu-Line would come up on weekends and just photograph the graffiti.
We often sit out there weekends and watch videos being made for records and that sort of thing. I love it and I think it’s wonderful. It’s funny, as a youngster, graffiti didn’t interest me at all. Then we never saw — I don’t see this as graffiti, as far as I’m concerned, it is art. Because amount of time and effort is put into it, it’s stunning. It’s terrible they may paint over every couple of weeks and start all over again, that fascinates. It’s one of my favorite parts of the whole area.
Marcella: In terms of the new development, can you tell us how you feel if this would be affected by the new development?
Leslie: I think we’ll be sad if we lost that area, to the graffiti and I think is very interesting and almost unique area, that would be sad to lose that.
Interviewer 1: The work you doing here now, you obviously sell stuff, but can you tell us more about what you do here now?
Leslie: Yes, we are a social enterprise, which basically that means halfway we’re doing a charity and a company. We make a profit but a guaranteed amount of that profit has to be returned back into the community. In our particular instance, it’s the golden rule of three, at least 33% of all our profits go back into the community, and out they’re done through working with other community groups. We pay for ourselves running community-based training courses which are free to everybody in the local area or try to find and develop young people from the area with training courses.
What we found with the training courses in particular, was a lot of youngsters would never be able to get on those training courses because they wouldn’t be able to pass the Mathematics or the English tests, because for one reason or another they’ve fallen out the education or they miss big chunks of their education. We decide to come up with a training course ourselves, where we would get outside companies to sponsor individuals and they would be paid to learn those skills. The advantage of doing it that way is we can control the courses and the qualifications.
We don’t care what people’s background. We don’t care that they are bad in Maths or they can’t — English isn’t brilliant. What we want is somebody who is interested in using their hands and can understand — who wants to understand how to make things, particularly, out of timber. We’re doing a lot of that and that’s what we call our academy. We also work with local people who’ve got those skills and they have use our work areas and that allows them to develop their own business without having to put a lot of money upfront.
They can actually work in our workspace. In exchange for working in our workspace and using our equipment, they do on their week working on projects. The main projects are semi-commercial ones, where we’re making furniture out of recycled material for commercial cafes, restaurants etcetera.
Interviewer 1: How much of that work do you do on the premises?
Leslie: Everything. We have a large workshop underneath this particular part of the building and then we have the academy under the other part of the building. We have actually two floors and four rooms. Each room basically represents four parts of the business.
Interviewer 1: Are there particular days you remember working here that’s [inaudible 00:14:17]?
Leslie: Well, anybody here should appear at the time and every single day is different. There are loads but I don’t want to pick one name in particular because unless naming people’s names and things like that.
Interviewer 1: Just leave their names off.
Leslie: Put me on the spot now. We have produced some of our artisan academy designers have designed and produced a phenomenal pieces of furniture. We’ve produced a very large French-style farmhouse table which is about two and a half, three meters long. It was an absolutely stunning piece of work. We did it as an individual commission and I thought to be able to make that out of completely recycled material, it’s completely made of scaffold boards, and to the level of quality finish made by people based within a mile away this building. I thought that was stunning, that’s one of the reasons I decided to join, because I love the idea people using their hands to produce things.
It’s very rarely that people get the chance to make things with their hands these days. Everybody sits in front of a computer and designs things, but they don’t do things with their hands. From a personal point of view, I lost use of my hands for about six months due to a thing called peripheral neuropathy, which is a side effect of chemo therapy after the second time I had cancer when I was about 20. Using your hands became quite interesting because I lost the use of mine. I used to play golf for a living and I couldn’t hit golf [inaudible 00:16:01] anymore. I used to paint and I couldn’t paint anymore.
The idea of not being able to use your hands suddenly became very important to me. To work in an organization where you’re teaching people how to use their hands creatively, how to turn waste material into something beautiful, probably is the reason I’m here today.
Interviewer 1: I probably would guess the answer to this but it would be good to hear you say it. They’re using recycled materials, why do you do that as opposed to just buying normal wood?
Leslie: Oh, I think is fundamental — we’re living in a society that throws things away. I used to be in the DIY industry for 30 old years. We dealt with manufacturers, who deliberately make products that couldn’t be repaired, that couldn’t be taken apart. We now as an advance of that, we now waste so much of our resources. It’s got to be scandalous. If we can save — we’ve so far this year, I think saved about [inaudible 00:17:01] about 120 tons of material from going into landfill, that’s going to be good for the economy — the ecology, anyway.
The economy is based around at least throwing things away because it’s cheaper than actually saving them, and that’s the pulling idea. Trees particularly are resources that should be looked after, especially in cities. To just waste things, like timbers, is scandalous.
Marcella: Just going back Leslie, you’re talking about earlier, can you tell us about any changes or any day sign that would have stood out to you when you were walking around with your granddad around here?
Leslie: Oh, definitely. When I was a kid if you walked along the canal, you could have [inaudible 00:17:55] walk across it because there is so much pollution in there. You never ever saw a boat you actually never saw anybody walking down it. There was no wildlife, there was no fish. In the 20, 30 years I have been walking up and down that, it’s now become almost a haven. There are loads of boat people living on them, people enjoying being on the canal.
The water is so much cleaner now, it might not look it, but compared when I — It would spontaneously ignite in different blazes because it was such high levels of petrol and chemicals being dumped in it. Now, it’s all being looked after, people use it as a cycle park, people walking up and down enjoying it, where the space they turned those into gardens or walk areas. What was a basically liquid industrial slum is now become almost an extra lung for this part of London, maybe the canal is going to compensate for the Westway but yes.
It’s huge changes on that and people are actually interested in it, 20 years ago — 25 years ago, when they started re-developing the canal, making it cleaner again, people showing in interest. You would consider freaky if you went out on weekend and wanted to help, unblock a canal or cut back all the overgrown brown bush. Now, it’s a major reason for living here. People love living next to water anyway because it is calming. I know I went down there and sit by the canal for five minutes at lunch time when I get the chance, and I think we should make more of that, if we get more parks down the side of that even better.
Interviewer 1: Where you too involved in that process?
Leslie: No, no, not at all, it’s terrible. I watch out other people doing it. I walked along it once they done it. I’ve always loved the idea of living on a boat, funny enough there’s two or three of our associates, the academy designers, and one of our 2nd-year trainee all live on boats on different parts of the canal. It’s a wonderful place, a wonderful way of living. Yes, I’d like to do that.
Marcella: Just to turn back a bit, do you know how it is because I know you have only been here for five months but how it is that business stopped being in this location, in this location?
Leslie: I think they approached the council, and the council said, “It’s a nice idea but we know where we’re going to put you.” Oliver and Marie came up with a business plan that needed to be in the middle of a community. It’s a matter of finding an area where you had a need and a space they could use. This had being empty for about three, four years and I think the council said, “Well, and if you could do something with that, we might be able to help you.”
They jumped to the fact because of where it is, suited the ethos of being right in the middle of a community rather than being stuck on an industrial estate, in a warehouse which would have being the normal way of looking at it. Somewhere out the way, we can make some noise and nobody will notice. It was for tutors that they got off the building and a place they’d like to bid, and they live local anyway, there are any about a mile and half down the road almost of the people, I traveled the furthest.
Interviewer 1: Hence, called the Goldfinger Factory?
Leslie: Yes, I know Goldfinger, obviously built the building, it’s an iconic landmark, and the idea of using that name just fitted it. There is a lot about — although that was very much in although it’s very modern and sometimes misuse bruises this building, which is just another word for honest. He wanted to build a vertical community. What has happened over the last couple of years, that sense of community has comes back. Things like social enterprise, Goldfinger in particular, like the idea that a community place — a based organization in a building that was designed to create new communities.
Interviewer 1: What is that leads you to say that you feel that sense of community is coming back?
Leslie: Just the number of people we deal with, amazes me. We run a community kitchen every 3rd Sunday, we get 40 0r 50 people from local area and just getting to talk to each other, learning to eat healthy food. Sadly, where I live there is no sense of community anymore, has become — people have just shut themselves into their houses and nobody wants to go out. There’s much, because of the diversity of nationalities and cultures. Some cultures are much more interactive than others, and I think that rubs off everybody.
If you’ve got a hub where people can come, and feel comfortable, and they can just talk to their friends or sit in a cafe, and have a cup of coffee and think about what they are going to do. That helps us, just a number of people who come through the door with ideas and things that they’d like to do, definitely, it is a sense of community. It’s only in the most community that I have ever lived in, would be in Valwood.
Interviewer 1: One I think the last question, without mentioning any names are you able to give — could you give us any stories of individuals that you’ve worked with, young people you have work with, how us being involved with this project has changed them or given them more opportunities?
Leslie: Obvious, ones are the academy trainees, both of those came from difficult backgrounds, we’ve managed to find them sponsorship. When we decided to set up the program, the idea of being interviewed was always going to be a no, no. With so many groups involved, us and the sponsors. The idea of standing — sitting in front of half a dozen people, firing questions at them, was a complete nonsense because we knew what the background is coming from. We set up — everybody who applied, had a one-week training, on-the-job training session which we paid them to do. The idea of that was that some of them very shy, some are very quiet, some have come from backgrounds where they don’t trust people, onset we’d knew through volunteering that they had an interest in woodworking or working with their hands.
When you’ve worked with somebody for a week, you get to know is it a person that going to actually find something from a program like that. The two people who ended up being chosen by the sponsors, it is ultimately down to them, it’s their money, so they get to choose the people. I think we will change our lives. They will not only change in the skill sets, they are learning on a practical basis, but that changes individuals because they become more confident in themselves. They suddenly realize they have got opportunities, they have got abilities, they have got a future and that changes the way that you behave. That changes the way you interact with other people, you learn to work as a team member and you develop as a human being.
There’s a large problem with that — with some of the youngsters who were coming out of schools and colleges, they miss a big chunk of that. That’s probably the thing I’m most proud about, that we will be able to change those people’s lives. We’re not just making money, like a lot of apprenticeship programs in construction are, just for finding somebody else place but in six months’ time will disappear and they just got a piece of paper that says they’ve done a training course or a so-called apprenticeship.
Ultimately, at the end of this, we want them to be able to stay with us and they become 2nd-year trainees. They then become the mentors for the next generation and they will continue to develop their skills. If they find another job with another employer, well, company will love it, just as happy with that. We would love them to stay with us. It’s easier for youngsters to pass information amongst us rather than having boring old folks like me telling them you should be lucky, you should be glad you’re here because this is really, really good.
Interviewer 1: Thank you very much [inaudible 00:26:37].
[00:26:39] [END OF AUDIO]
Michael: This is Michael [unintelligible 00:00:03] here with-
Steven: Steven [unintelligible 00:00:05] and
Sergio Alexandre Iantas: Sergio Alexandre Iantas.
Michael: Cool. It’s February 27, 2016. The time now is 12:51. Sergio, can I get you to just spell your name out for us?
Sergio: S-E-R-G-I-O- A-L-E-X-A-N-D-R-E and the surname is I-A-N-T-A-S.
Michael: Okay. That’s cool. Where were you born?
Sergio: I was born in Brazil, in a town called Apucarana in the south of Brazil.
Michael: In what year?
Sergio: In 1962, a long time ago.
Michael: 1962. Cool. You’re here today to tell us about your experiences about coming to this area, the Goldfinger Trellick Towers Estate. What got you into coming into this area to do what you do?
Sergio: First I come around because of the canal. Come to cycle in the canal, for a walk and things and then I saw they have the skate bowl in there. Then I get a skate board, I have used to use the skate board. When I was a kid I had a skate board. But then I saw the facilities of them and I started to– about two years now I am on the skate boarding there, once every two weeks. I’m always in there enjoying the skate board.
Steven: The what? The skate board?
Sergio: The skate board. There’s a skate bowl in here just around the Meanwhile Gardens.
Sergio: It’s part of the complex in here.
Steven: Tell me more about it.
Sergio: I do go skate board and I enjoy it. That’s to keep fit, I’m not young anymore I have to move a bit otherwise, I lose. If you snooze, you lose.
Michael: You said you used to skate board as a kid?
Michael: Did you keep that up all for your life or [crosstalk]?
Sergio: No. In the 70’s I stopped. I never did again but when I saw the facilities in here, getting old, I start doing it again. I’m about two years on it now.
Michael: What facilities did you have when you were younger as a kid?
Sergio: We don’t have this kind of board, beautiful– in Brazil it’s poor, the government does not have money to build this kind of things for the kids to play. It was on a flat surface in Brazil. In here is much better.
Michael: Do you find that Trellick Towers is the only area or one of the only areas where you can come and do what you do?
Sergio: Yes, I like this area. I like the Trellick tower, I think it’s beautiful. It’s a nice building. It’s a listed building, I like it.
Steven: Could you talk more about that being listed building, what does that mean?
Sergio: It means it’s a building but the [unintelligible 00:03:18] is appreciated by the government because they want to preserve it. It’s something that they don’t want to build something around to make any changes or anything, it’s something that you don’t change.
Steven: Are you aware of the changes that are going to happen?
Sergio: I was aware today. I never heard about this before, that’s why I’m here. Today I heard that they are making a project to make changes in the graffiti area and I’m totally opposed to that. That’s why I’m here to show my opinion. In a listed building you don’t make change, you don’t make extensions, you don’t build anything around it. This is a nice preservation area, nice garden, Meanwhile Gardens. The good thing there is, it’s good the way that it is. That’s why it’s listed because we like what we have here.
Michael: We’re just going to show you a couple of pictures to see if you recognize any of the areas. These are old pictures of the area where they’re going–
Steven: Do the redevelopment.
Michael: -do the redevelopment.
Sergio: Yes, I’ll look at the aerial pictures. Yes, I recognized it.
Steven: You recognized it?
Sergio: Yes, the car park, the Trellick building. I like the aerial picture, Charlton Estate.
Steven: Is there anything in these photos that stands out for you?
Sergio: What stands out really is the Trellick Tower.
Sergio: This building, I like it.
Steven: Tell me more why you like it?
Sergio: It’s something beautiful, architecturally talking. It’s something beautiful; the way that the tower is thin and long and the stairs outside. It’s something nice, I like this extension where the stairs is outside. I like it. And there’s open spaces and all the big car park. A nice sunny place. There’s space for kids to run, it’s nice. I like it.
Michael: In your own words, how would you describe Trellick Towers and the areas around it?
Sergio: In my own words, it’s a nice architectural design. I don’t know how old it is but it’s something nice, it’s a nice development. It’s done, it’s finished you don’t have to do anything on it anymore. That’s what it is now. I am saying these words because I oppose to any development in this area. For me what we have in here is what we need. We don’t need anything here apart from what we already got.
Steven: Thank you. You’ve told us about the skate board area. Tell us a bit more about what you do there and how you got to know about the space, because off record you told me and another project leader, that you don’t live here but you come here a lot. Tell us a bit more about why you come here and what made you–
Sergio: I discovered the area because of the canal. Many people like to cycle in the canal. They have nothing to do in the Sunday afternoon or Saturday summer day. You come and cycle in the canal because it’s flat, it’s nice to cycle. I saw this skate park and with time I pass again and again and I decided to get a skateboard for myself and I started using it. So I now go into shops, I know the guy from the pub in there, I get friends in the area, I get to know people. Now I have friends, even though I’m not a local, this is the local place for me to skateboard. This is the place where I frequent, where I’m always around.
There’s three skate parks around, there’s the Royal Oak, there’s the BaySixty6 just down there and the Meanwhile Gardens. Because I’m on the skateboard thing for me it’s easy to come here, I found my friends, the locals, I liked it.
Michael: Does that create a sense of community for you?
Sergio: Yes. I don’t feel isolated. I have my friends in here. I’m part of it now. Been a long time I’m around I’m part of it, I feel part of the community now.
Michael: Tell me what that means to you?
Sergio: It’s important that you have to have a sense of community because some people live isolated. They just socializes at their little group like they live in aquarium. I don’t feel like that. I go in there in Meanwhile and the place, the locals, it doesn’t matter for me if it’s black or if it’s Asian or if it’s Muslim or Christian. We are all part of this community. This is our area now. We all help each other. We are all friends with each other. I never had any trouble here that’s why I like this area. Unlike the other place where I have been, where the people say, “Do we have a gang running this place. We don’t like strangers in here.” In here I never find that, I’ve always been welcomed here. I liked this area.
Michael: Do you think for you if these developments go on it’s going to change that sense of community for you?
Sergio: I don’t think it will be so hard on the sense of community because it will even have more people who will come, but it’s the idea of fiddling with the listed building–
Steven: That you don’t like?
Sergio: I don’t like this idea. It’s listed because they want to preserve it the way that it is. That’s why it’s a listed building. We don’t want anything around. That’s what it is. The state, the way it looks it’s good. That’s what it is. We don’t want to fiddle with it.
Steven: I’m not sure if you do know that if the developments happen and this life goes on the skate park is at risk of going?
Sergio: No. The skate park will never go. That is solid. The skate park will be there forever. We will oppose completely about this. The skate park is not going. We’re going there and make a strike in front of the bulldozers if they want to bulldoze that thing because that’s our life. We enjoy it. It’s not only work, work, work; we want to also enjoy life, to have fun. That’s a place for us to have fun we cannot break that thing down.
If they promise that they will build a better one somewhere else, no we don’t want. We have always boarding there. Kids grew up in that Meanwhile bowl. They grew up with it since many years ago. We don’t want that thing, it’s part of our history now. I think they should list also the skate bowl.
Steven: They should what?
Sergio: List the skate bowl also.
Steven: Tell me more about that.
Sergio: Yes, because it’s part of the history of this area now. We cannot destroy that. I think if they will make a development, the skate bowl, we will not be pleased. It cannot. No one can have the idea to destroy that. It’s unacceptable for us. If you go there and tell the kids that are playing in there now that they have a plan to develop in that area anyone that I know will oppose because that’s the place to have fun.
Some of the kids go there, they don’t go in pubs. They don’t do anything else. Some of the adult people they go there. They don’t go in pubs. They don’t socialize in pubs or anything, that’s the place where they socialize. That’s the place where they meet their friends, where they have the barbecue on a Sunday afternoon. That is their place to enjoy life.
Steven: Are there any days that stick out to you when you’ve come down here and it’s been a day that you remember very well?
Sergio: Many times. Many times.
Steven: Would you like to elaborate on one of those days, your experience that day being in this area?
Sergio: It’s so many men, because I’ve been here for such a long time now. It’s been two years and we join our friends and kids and make a barbecue and enjoy all the hot afternoons in the summer. There are many, many times where I’ve had a good time in there. Only last weekend we had a barbecue in there. People from the Halfpipe the bike shop just around the corner in there they brought a barbecue, we put the barbecue on prepared [unintelligible 00:13:18] bought the thing, bought the fish and things. We spent the afternoon in there having a barbecue only last weekend, only last Sunday.
That’s our life, that’s how we enjoy life.
Michael: Thank you so much. It’s been so great speaking to you and just listening to how passionate you really are about the skate park and about the developments. It’s been really great to be with you.
Sergio: I want to make sure that my words are recorded in there that I really oppose today to the development of this area. The area is what it is. It’s listed we don’t fiddle with it. Sorry if I disappoint anyone but that’s what it is now.
Steven: My partner here is going to press stop on the recording. It’s 1.07, the interview has concluded and Michael will press the button.
Tanya: Saturday, 30th of July 2016. My name is Tanya Demari.
Boris: My name is Boris Lazarov.
Tanya: And we’re here with Shan as part of the Reimagining Goldfinger project. Shan, could I just get you to confirm your name, please?
Shan: Yes, I’m Shan O’Donnell and I live on the 12th floor. I’ve been about 20 years in the building with my family– and still enjoying it. I did live across the road for a few years, and then we got an option to move here, which I took straight away. I may have to move in the next four weeks, but I intend to stay within the building. It’s worth the effort and even the extra money it may cost. But Trellick means a lot to me, as opposed to a home. It’s everything I’d want from an address, do you know?
Boris: Why will you have to move in four weeks?
Shan: I ended up renting. I separated from my family and I ended up renting a flat below them– three floors below them a few years later. And that’s come to a conclusion, which is fine. And I also knew that it was a temporary fixture, but I’ve got eight years there. Now my children are adults, so they don’t need me next door anymore. But personally, I intend to stay in the building. So I will seek to make that work as best I can.
It’s worth it, you know? It’s for various reasons, but it’s just I like living in the sky. I just love being able to see to the horizon, you know? I value that more than a garden because I’m looking over London anyway. I’m looking over everything. It’s the best of everything. And it’s silent up there– it’s quieter, is the word. I’m not in the traffic, or the public, passing public, etcetera. So I notice these things when I walk in there at night, and it’s as if I’m in the countryside. You know, it really is sometimes.
Tanya: Tell us more about what it’s like to live in the sky.
Shan: It’s what you make of it too. When I moved in, I washed all the windows in the hallway as a gesture to my neighbours. So they hadn’t met me or they didn’t know my name, but I just thought actions speak louder. So that was my way of saying hello. And within a month I knew my neighbours to say hello, small talk, and not feel strange at the lift where you do have to spend a fraction of your life. When you live in a high-rise, you do wait on lifts. And when one’s broke, you wait longer.
And when it’s rush hour for school, you wait even longer for a lift. So again, it was important to my children. It felt comfortable too. They didn’t act strange with the neighbours. It’s that saying you’re living with each– It’s a communal space. So it’s not about coming and going, it’s about everything between your flat and the pavement. Equally, my children wouldn’t want to leave either. They love living in this building, you know? It’s in their blood too. They wouldn’t have it any other way, you know?
And what else? I mean, it’s a concrete building, so structurally it’s the quietest address you could have. You can’t hear your neighbours. What they play on their record player, or what station they’re on the TV, or what conversation or business or arguments– you don’t hear any of that. You just don’t. So that’s a real value in a city, to have that sort of calmness about your address. You don’t get that readily in a city of this size.
Boris: Do you think that might change if they build other tall buildings around?
Shan: The new development goes to six or seven floors. I can appreciate why. It’s in keeping with Block B and the Edenham Estate, blocks of a similar size, six floors. And I’m not bothered. We do need housing, but not at the expense of a children’s playground, which we’re going to lose. And I can’t understand why we’re adding a hundred and ten or twenty units, which will bring in more children, yet taking away the children’s facility.
It’s very odd, you know? I understand you’re not allowed to have dogs in a high-rise because they need an open space. What’s the difference between pups, kittens, and children? They’re all energetic creatures in their youth. They need outdoor space, you know? And that’s the problem. The problem is these are the new private flats for the most part if not all.
People buying into them, generally, are able to take their kids elsewhere maybe one holiday a year, or maybe to the cinema, take them other places. Whereas I’m aware the local children can’t afford such gestures, and they do need that open space downstairs for the football and they’re– just the social development, you know? No matter what it is, even if they’re not playing the games, just being in a group among your friends of your own age and developing your social skills.
You can’t do that in a bedroom looking at a virtual screen, pressing a button. That doesn’t develop a child’s well-being, whereas open spaces do. Just because my children have grown beyond that need, I still value it. I love it to be there for their children, etcetera. It’s only right that it should be cared for and kept. Because you may lose 10 flats from the development to retain that, but for the next hundred years everyone has an open space which adds a value to their address. So why profit once and lose this place of value forever?
I know we have Meanwhile gardens and the skate pool. It’s more of an individual area. This is about teamwork, you know? Ball courts are about teamwork, and loyalties, and all that exchange that goes on. And picking, choosing, failure, success– all those things happen on a flat surface like that.
I think it’s one of the most important parts here because Goldfinger put it in, you know? How can a new architect add more children and take away their part, you know? They’ll put in parking for the cars, you know? But those with the least voice are being walked over. Because across the road, literally, Wardington Estate produced 500 homes. And their place put in 850 without a ball court. The same is happening here now at Trellick, adding units and taking away the ball courts.
So all the needs of the youth now are concentrated on less. There’s more competition for these play areas. So the juniors, those under 10 and 12, don’t get a look-in because it’s the teenagers who are just doing their thing playing there now. By the law of average, someone’s going to miss out. Because on top of the car park, which we did have for a few years in the ’70s until the council vandalized it by demolishing it rather than just locking it up.
At great expense, they demolished it. That had a proper play area on top of it with relief. So the council demolished that, and now the new development is taking the ball court. So they’re chipping away at children’s needs, rather. Do you know? That does bother me. No one seems to care much until it’s gone. And then we’ll hear all the unhappy comments then, but not in advance of its leaving.
Tanya What would you personally like to seeing happen to Cheltenham Estate?
Shan: It is necessary to build enough space, I knew it would. But they’re encroaching on the Trellick footprint from the old folks home which did outgrow its needs. As a builder, I understood why that got demolished due to modern needs, etcetera. But I was surprised that they sought to bring their housing development to the toenails of Trellick, if you want to say, right up against Trellick.
It’s a denser concentration than we had. And again, I would be cool about this if they were all social buildings on council property, which it is. That’s what bothers me. It’s social land that’s been sold for a one-off profit at the expense of the original tenants and ethos of social housing space and well being. As I said, those with the least money will feel it the most, is how I may put it.
Tanya: From what you’ve said, it sounds as though you believe that it’s becoming more of a business opportunity, rather than a community focused and social housing project.
Shan: Yes, I’d agree. Yes. I’m surprised because it’s at a time when we talk about– there’s an epidemic of obesity, apparently, in Britain. The youth are just eating the wrong foods and not running around. How can we be denying them one of the several factors that would resolve this? And that’s an outdoor lifestyle. Whereas we’re all engineered now to be plugged into a room, rather than being running around outside, which I did in my youth.
You exercise your imagination in a different way when you’re outdoors, as opposed to being indoors in a room with a hole of a window rather than the value of light and– what’s that Vitamin D? We need to be outside more. Little things like that. How can you get that sitting in a room? It doesn’t work. Forgive me, but that’s my thoughts on that space. I will attend the meetings and just put my point as I have to you. I’d like the architects to justify why they’re building over it and ask what are the needs of their children by day.
Tanya: Could you tell us a bit more about what it was like to raise your children in Trellick?
Shan: Just the layout of the building is very good, each flat. It’s a lot better inside than it looks on the outside. I love the appearance outside. It was bold and individual and that’s why it stands out. It’s not complying. It was a very adventurous statement when that went up. But the bonus is when you go inside, it’s even better. The rooms, I’d call them good. I’d call them all a good size. The balconies are the width of the flat, rather than a box balcony attached to the flat which has one entrance. All balconies in Trellick, other than a one-bedroom, have two entrances or exits.
So you have rotation. You can go out the lounge, and then the kitchen, or vice versa. This allows your pets and your children to run around. If it’s wet outside, they’re still out in the elements by being on the balcony without knowing it. It’s that subtle difference. You don’t feel, “I have to go out today,” if you sat on your balcony doing your work, or talking to your friend, or little things like that. It brings you in and out, in and out. That can only be a good thing. I see the balcony as part of the flat and not somewhere to store your rubbish, which sadly too many people seem to do. It’s the best part of the flat for me.
But the children– again, it allowed them the same thing. They could sit out there and shut the door, and we’d be inside or vice versa. It’s this little private space. We have, meanwhile, gardens behind which I think– it’s a compliment to Trellick, to have such a quality space– water canal, which is amazing. You just have boats passing by. That’s rather nice. The kids, now they’re 20, 25 and they love the building and wouldn’t want to leave. Because they’ve been to friends homes and my daughter said, “I still prefer to stay in Trellick, despite all the options.” I don’t know that anywhere is perfect and I don’t seek utopia, but in reality, this building offers a lot.
I’m pleased it’s still effectively a social building, for the most part, because that was it’s intended purpose. I think it should be kept as an example of how social housing can be. They should build another Trellick. It doesn’t have to be done concrete. It can be done in modern fabric steel fabrications, and to the same footprint, and giving other people the same value of living, rather than the modern hen houses for people which you have a kitchen, diners, bedrooms that barely close the door when you put a bed in them. It’s shocking. I am a builder of 30 years, and it’s regressive.
We’re now adopting a Japanese psychology that if you can get your shoes beside your bed you should be thankful. That is creeping into London housing culture, as it were now. It’s big architects and the government’s councils are accepting more restrictive planning. They’re allowing developers to squeeze more units into a plot at the expense of the living experience. Thus, people are forever moving in the city. You’ll meet someone, you’ll take a one-bedroom flat that you’ll barely get your stuff into. And then if you have a child, you move to a two-bedroom where the rooms are so small you really need a three-bedroom.
They’re not making homes that you can stay in. It’s a shame, but that’s the pressure of economics and everyone seems to want to live in London. Here I am myself, as an emigre of 30 years. I’m a guest of London, I will say that. And very fortunate to spend most of it in Trellick.
Boris: You talk a lot about your children and how they had the opportunity to live in a very nice building with nice surroundings. What do you think they think about it? Because obviously they had this very nice life, and now potentially– not only here, but maybe overall in London and a lot of places, It’s very quite difficult to live in the city but then have this open space around it. Do you know what their thoughts are on it?
Shan: They’re proud to be in this because it’s nearly a media address. You look up Trellick or print the word, It’s a global word in my opinion now. It’s well known. They’re rather pleased about that, but they know the value of it having lived here, as opposed to thinking grass is greener over the fence. They know the nuts and bolts of Trellick. We do have the odd dodgy neighbour giving issues now and then, and things do happen, but all within context of any collection of homes, which Trellick has 217.
So you will have the menu of life happening within this building. But by and large, there’s no– there were four crack houses when I moved in 20 years ago, and that took about five years to resolve. Security’s got better, so it’s slowly gaining its rightful reputation. It did have a very poor reputation because the council didn’t exercise a concierge, as Goldfinger suggested downstairs. Thus, it developed its own negative thieving culture in the building, and drugs, and– in a high-rise, people can’t see what’s going on up on the 10th, 12th floor. It’s out of sight, so a lot more did happen back in the ’70s and ’80s.
But all that, by and by, with the buy to let, a percentage of the people who bought in because they cared. And this brings a different approach to the building. People who buy the flats, by and large, care about it. We still have people in the building who leave their rubbish outside their door in the hallway, thinking the council should come, and move their rubbish for them, and put it down the chute for them, etcetera. Some people just think it should be done for them, but they’re in a minority. They come with the territory anyway.
Even moderns blocks in London can have their challenging neighbours. But when you weigh it up, I don’t see much wrong with the place. It’s been ignored since its existence by the council. I’ve never painted the outside. In the 20 years I’ve been here, they’ve never did any cyclical painting which you’re meant to do with wood. Every five to seven years, paint will peel. You need to address that. It’s the duty of the council to do it, but they’ve never done it. And now they use terminology that Trellick is soaking up all the money for this part of the ward, while they in turn created a negative situation which needs much more money. A stitch in time does save nine, and this is a powerful example of a building that’s been left and left and left.
And it’s nearly part of its beauty that, it being concrete, it’s a bit, reminds me of Stonehenge. It will get better with age, when different moulds (?) bacteria grow on it, etcetera. It’s a lifetime product. It doesn’t need painting, or washing, or etcetera, as other buildings because of the rough textured surface which is done via scabbling, which is when you strike the shutters you have a flat, gray, cement surface. But you get a long air gun that breaks the surface with all these spikes, and it reveals the aggregate, the color of the stones.
It gives you a very dense texture, which then dissipates water flow as it rains. It dissipates it. When looking off a window sill in a house, you’ll eventually see a black line down each side. With this building, it dissipates water, it weathers better, and changes color in sunset– which you see endlessly. Even though people refer to it as a gray building, they don’t study it when the sun’s setting and the colors come out. But it does look after itself in one sense, but it’s been ignored.
From 25 years looking off balconies, watching the entire neighbourhood get scaffold twice for the repairs, work repairs, painting, etcetera, and Trellick’s had nothing other than– the east one was replaced a few years ago out of necessity, because the prevailing weather comes from south, southwest and it whips around the east side of Trellick, peeling the paint off the windows over the years. Thus, they fell into decay and had to be replaced. But that was out of necessity, rather that regard for the building. And equally, Lakehouse did repairs four or five years ago which are appalling and falling to bits now because it was the lowest common denominator. And that’s exactly what we got.
We got a cheap fix for a short term and the building is not getting its due regard, in my opinion, as a builder. It’s been left a long time, and thus you will have issues. It’s still social, unlike Balfron which was built first. Trellick was an homage to Balfron because having built that, he refines his ideas slightly. And Trellick looks the slicker version of the two. But that’s thanks to Balfron, which has now become a private building. That made a lot of people nervous in Trellick. And it would be a crime if these two social building classics should become sold to the few in a private market, rather than being available to an ever changing volume of social people who come and go from them. That would be a shame.
Tanya: Could you share some more memorable moments of your time in Trellick? Because you’ve mentioned the living experience, the way that it’s transformed from the ’70s, and the reputation that it’s had. Could you share more of those memorable events and days that you’ve had?
Shan: I joined the committee to get access. I’m curious about the building itself, and I enjoy photography, and I wanted to see the guts of the building– you know, its core as you might say. I joined the committee for various reason, but that’s one of them, I’ll be honest. And back then you could get a key, and go get access, and just have a look around. That was helpful for me. Again, then being on the committee, you get involved with art projects, etcetera, to come into the building.
People might ask how to do some project, and then you’d get it. If you’re on the committee, you’re aware of this. And then I offered to help, etcetera. One major part was Ron Haselden. He’s a light artist. His media are lights. He was approached by a guy who built the unit across the tracks, Barley Shots, I think it’s called, Barley Shots. There’s a bakery, etcetera, across the road. But that architect saw the relationship between the length of his building and the height of Trellick, and he got Ron Haselden involved.
And he did a trilogy for Trellick, of only which the first part was completed. And that involved offering everyone in Block A, the taller– the tower itself, rather than Block B which runs along Golborne with the shop. So you had about 150 flats which I elected to door knock and off the lights. And that in itself taught me a lesson that however good or slick or cool you think your ideas are, not everyone sees it or wants it or needs it. So a third of the tenants accepted the lights, which– I thought more would take to this colorful one-hour event, free of charge, color, etcetera.
But a third accepted it, and thankfully they were uniformly dispersed over the building. So we didn’t have a cluster of color one place. It was kind of uniform. So for one hour, we all had a script and a 500-watt stage lighting with fireproof filters– colored filters to slide across this light on the balcony which projected onto the ceilings of the balconies, which are white, and that would illuminate your balcony. Ron Haselden got the local school children to do drawings that fitted within the rectangular structure of the building, which meant that– and then across the road over the rail lines, he had a large digital lighting.
So when it struck one at seven o’clock on that particular day, it may have said– I’d look in the script, yellow. So we all put yellow light. But as we moved through the script, number five might say green in my balcony, but my neighbour number five could be blue. And then it gave these different shapes, designs. So we were doing different things with each movement. Sadly, if everyone took part, this would have had a great impact. You’ll be driving up Goldhawk Road and you’d see this building two miles away changing color in the setting sun, etcetera.
It was what it was, but that was an introduction to the reality of the building, that you have to approach to things realistically, and sensitively, and with a degree of understanding. Because not everyone sees things through my eyes or hears things. But that was a great thing. I really enjoyed being part of that. And it opened my eyes to the fact that a building is a canvas to the city as much as it’s just a hole because it can be seen from a great distance and loved by many people. It’s a very useful sort of canvas, I thought.
I was engaged with any artistic project that came by the building and sought to use it myself in my own strange ways. We had an asexual character in red put over the building again 10, 12 years ago maybe. I’m no good with dates, but these things are online somewhere. And that was a person’s feet, effectively, in the two corners at the bottom with her two hands held in the corners. So there’s this red character made up of placing large, red, plastic panels on each balcony to form the character. And that was a complete character bar maybe four or five flats. That was a successful image. There have been others, and I myself– I mean, the carnival is a useful time because you have a mobile audience passing you, unlike any other day of the year.
So this year, I intend to do a light box on the balcony. It’s just simply two old cotton sheets studded around the balcony, close it off completely, and then just get a colored LED light sat back in a lounge, and just let it run for a few hours from dusk onwards. As people leave Carnival, you’ll have this abstract box halfway up the tower changing color for no reason. That’s perfect. That’s all I want. And it’s simple and costs nothing if I can just do that.
Last year I let off balloons, 600 balloons, but the sky was very gray. That wasn’t as effective. But, again, it’s all trial and error. You don’t know and you can’t control the weather either. But I did do a lot of experiments with fishing lines, tiny balloons a meter apart with helium, and let them hang or tie them to the balcony, and then they hung off 50 yards and more. And then they just danced around the air at their own movement. I came to realize that the sky– air is similar to water. These currents push each other all around the place. So they’re just like colored fish in the sky. Again, it’s this abstraction. No one can see the fishing line, but they can see a dozen balloons doing stuff without flying off.
I had three weeks left on the rental and 25% gas, so I asked my friend, rather than for the fishing line, can I have the fishing rods. So I tied another sixteen with helium to the end of the rod, and put the rod over the balcony, and then just fished them in and out. And I’d let the rod go off for 300 yards, and then click it back and reel it in. I just did that for 20 minutes. I got a friend to record it just to demonstrate that air has the same value. Because I sit there looking at the sky and sometimes I just think like, “Well, I come from the coast and there’s not a great difference between looking out at the sea and looking up at the sky.” Especially when you live with 8 million people in the city, you can let your imagination take you there. And the sky, it’s that massive expanse that you can’t tire off.
The balcony is somewhere that energizes me. It’s vice versa. I enjoy looking off it but equally, I know I’m in a position to do something unusual, and colorful, and humorous. I don’t mind abstraction. Carnival’s a party. It’s that contribution, that oddity because I love other people’s energy and etcetera, so why not be a part of it after 26 years? But I always look at Trellick thinking that, “How can I utilize this place?”
And also, the Golden Bridge looks fantastic with the blue lights over it in the evening. Have you seen them? There’s a blue rope wire– it’s a rope tube over the arches. But that’s on the evening. And I just thought Trellick needs a straight one across the top at Christmas for four weeks just to complement the curves of the bridge with the rigid straight line. That’s something I intend to do next year. Whether I’m a tenant or not, I want to seek funding to try and exercise that. And that will be a test of my neighbourly values if I can get five neighbours in a row to agree to this principle. But I haven’t given up. So that’s something I’d like to do too. But that’s what the building means to me. It inspires me. A council house wouldn’t talk to me in the same way. So, there you go.
Tanya: The artistic value of Trellick really seems to matter to you. And from what you said about the art projects that you’ve been involved in, it really is a source of inspiration for you.
Shan: Yes. See, as a child I loved architecture, I guess. And to me, architecture is sculpture on a grand scale. You walk around, use it, how it affects light, you know – furniture. I’m a carpenter and I see furniture as the same thing. It’s 3D, its architecture on a very small scale. So the building, given its sort of bold statement, it allows me to think beyond security– a safe aesthetic. I’m encouraged by what Goldfinger did, and I think it’s only within the element of risk you find new stuff. They do say a lot of our good art are genuine mistakes. That’s how you came to this. Yes, Trellick– it’s a constant source for me. I like coming home.
It’s more than just shutting the door behind me. I’m coming back to this place. But equally, now we have a graffiti wall downstairs too, which is very established. And the writers would call that a hall of fame. It was used in the ‘80s. It’s not legal, but it’s tolerated by the tenancy– the Trellick Tenants Committee because I volunteered to manage it on behalf the committee when it when it didn’t have any beans? It was waterlogged, the homeless were using it as a toilet, and not the writers. So there was confusion created a few years ago, and the committee thought we best close it because the cleaners were complaining about the toilet issues, etcetera.
But I did explain who was doing that, give us the beans?, let’s have a go, and four years later it’s still being used as London’s best wall. I will use that term because people tell me that. Writers tell me this. There are many sites to write, but this is the most relaxing, warm, sun on your back, iconic setting. And large walls to go as big as your imagination, rather than a limited size. So it has everything.
Frequently used by female writers, which is a very healthy thing that demonstrates they’re not afraid to come here on their own or with their friends. That’s really healthy. It’s not just a boy’s club. It’s for everyone. I love being down there because I meet artists, people of my own hobby, you might say. No one makes money from that. So it’s not about profit, but it’s about truth. You come there and you spend six, eight– some people can do in an hour, short in and out. Other guys will spend 10 hours there. Love Pusher? 3D backlit colors, he writes “Jesus”, it’s incredible what he does. And it does take him eight hours. It’s a masterpiece on a wall. And the next day, if not that evening, someone will come in and write their piece over that.
And it’s akin to me as a carpenter, doing seven, eight hours work in your home and then giving you the hammer to smash the work, and then I walk off cool. That’s what’s going on there. These people are that generous. People can’t see that. They spend a day giving, then somebody else removes the evidence of their worth, you might say. So I find that very honorable, a lot of people see it as vandalism. It is vandalism on people’s personal property, I will say that. But the problem is they’ve never been given an address or a place or recognition to practice and concentrate it.
So when this ball court gets built over, I’m very concerned for what happens to these guys. Because they will go back on the street, and then the law will come down on them again as vandals, despite the council removing their one collective place to be legal and proper about it. There is a percentage who want to vandalize it. It’s in our nature to claim things, and be archaic, do the wrong thing. That’s their bad. But by large, this wall is so well used. It proves my point. It takes it off the street. And I see people walking in there just drop their jaw and just swear in awe at what they’re looking at because they didn’t know this gem of a gallery of expression existed until they stumbled into it.
So it means a lot. And they when I say to people it’s going to be built over in a year’s time, and they’re like speechless, absolutely speechless. So it means a lot to many people even those who don’t write. It’s just the serenity walking into a garden that’s full of color. It’s no different to Holland Park flower garden. Each week there’s different colors there. Each season offers you different colors and plants. Well, the graffiti wall is the same. You visit it once a week, you are going to see a whole new range of color just as you would with flowers. There’s no difference. It has that energy. So people keep coming back to see it again, see it again. It’s a shame that something of that value is going to be removed without comment and the people who made it are dispersed into more negative properties, situations. That bothers me a lot, too. It’s a place for growth. I see people walking in there, uncertain and not sure, and doing their first bits. As I speak to them — I’m down there on a daily basis, myself, and six months later, they’re doing a really big piece. They’re proud of it and you can just see the development socially, artistically. Their well being improves, with the more time you spend down there.
It really has a very good value, more than just that word, “graffiti,” which is a negative term, what the London councils. Brighton have allowed streets of it to exist, which is fantastic, and embraced it. I went to Brighton to see it. I got down on a bus, spent my money, had my fish and chips on the beach. It’s a source of interest to the modern culture, not the old heads running the council. You’ve got to get on board.
People now go to find these venues and it should be celebrated, because it’s an asset that people will come to – Golborne Road ? should be- have Trellick graffiti wall on their homepage. It would bring people to the neighbourhood. It really would, as much as anything else. That’s how I see it sadly. It’s not a majority view amongst people in authority, who just want it banished.
Even the Olympics used it heavily in their London promotion, colorful, energetic, creative people. Once we got the Olympics, it just rolled off. The East End was all buffed, cleaned up, can’t be here, until it became corporate and cleansed of expression. That’s a shame. The very thing that energizes the place then gets built over and it’s because, I suppose, that’s a social gathering down there, as much as the cafes and anywhere else, and the parks.
It’s a place where like-minded people meet and do more than write a song. They actually spend 30 pound on their colors and a day of their life doing their best by the wall. That’s what I call development. That takes courage. I did try myself, lately, because I’m 50 and I’d regret it all my life if I didn’t have a go at the wall. Out of respect for the people I’ve been watching for the last 20 years, because I always went to the pit across the bridge, which is now history gone.
It bothered me that that place which was built over without any comment or any finale, so in next the few weeks, I’ve organized the right to writers, CBM, and FBS or DDS guys to draw their our friends together on a family day down there, because I want to celebrate the wall, rather than lose it. I’m not a DJ, but I’ve turntables and just a big mixer. It’s my hobby.
I have the facility, I have the mechanics on the doorstep- the turntables, the speaker, the amp. Being on the committee is dead useful, because I have access to three tents, which I’ve been allowed to use for this family day. There’s one for the barbecue, which will put on then colored black. The other one’s for the DJ, which in case it rains and the third one’s for the children’s table tent.
We will also be putting boards around the fence for the children to draw, so they’ll have their low level boards to spray and write, after two of London’s finest writers who are affiliated with teaching for children will be cleared. Powell and Taiser are well known for those skills. They’ve agreed to come and teach the children, so we’re going to go to Poundland and get 20, 30 canvases. So we get them on the sketchbooks first.
There’s a Graffiti Kings in Birmingham, kind enough to donate a hundred pound of drawing equipment, which were for the children. Goldfinger Factory – Les in there was kind enough- they were going to lend us the toilet downstairs for the day, but Les explained he’s in a position to get several portaloos delivered free. It’s all come together with good grace and that matters, because we’ve got no money. So it’s great that all the parts are coming together.
I just need to refresh with the chair of Trellick that it’s okay to- that I’ve been given a permit, but I just want to refresh. That was last year and it came too close to carnival, so we can’t have music outside Trellick after carnival. Two days’ carnival, people want peace. We’re going to do it two weeks before carnival, getting under the radar.
That’s why children are humanizing the space, one to show the tenants and other people that it’s all these guys you look at were kids once, back in the day. Their craft has led them to this wall. That’s what it’s about, the next generation. And it is about families, and mothers and fathers coming to the wall, not just a group of guys claiming the wall. It is a social space and I wanted to demonstrate that with the music.
It’s not about hip-hop and loud music, it’s about background beats, so that everyone has one harmonious sound. Some days, you could have three or four groups there with different music and that just dropped me. Why don’t you just have one, uniform sound in the background? You walk into an environment, then this aura of togetherness – that’s what I’m trying to seek for the last few months, because our summers aren’t great here. This is something we’re putting together in two weeks.
Again, that wouldn’t have happened elsewhere, for me. But Trellick allows, it gives me the energy to do these sort of things, so yes, let’s hope for a good day – weatherwise, all the other parts are there. Again, we’ll try and do this. I’m going to buy a generator to be independent, so we can just take it down there. We don’t want cables, just be independent, sort of background beats for people.
It is a vinyl only day, because the finger that sprays the can should be same finger that plays the vinyl. It’s not about lazy, CG button pressing that makes you look good, when you’ve got no skills. It’s about people who love their music equally. I want to give people that option of painting a piece on the wall, maybe bringing a 10 vinyl, and then getting behind the decks and playing their own music. That, to me, is an ideal sort of day.
There’s a lot of DJs. Everyone that writes pretty much thinks they’re a DJ. I will put my hand up to that, too. They go hand in hand, so that’s the difficult part, telling people “you can’t play” on the day, as opposed to “you can”. The handbags will start clashing, but we’ve got to give it a go and it’s what I’ve been trying to learn. With this place, if they’re going to build over, next summer, then I would seek to have a public day there, open that to the public, because that place will get rammed.
That’s the right sort of homage to the last day down there. Let’s put it out there and celebrate it, show people what’s been taken from us, as much as anything else. It’s important that it’s recorded, I think.
Tanya: What do you think is in store for the next generation?
Shan: It’s — God, look at Brexit. No one has a clue. Many predictions were made and they are now changing. We live in unscripted times. When I was a child, things ran slower and you could see something- “I’ll do this in 10 years” and know a lot would have changed. Now, if you live in London, the pace of life is quickest. London eats itself and digests itself continually, so Holloway where I arrived 30 years ago is not the same road.
It looks it, structurally, but all the shops, pubs, people are different to what I witnessed. All my memories exist now in my head. They’re not there, factually. Holloway’s changed. The cinema, there’s a few statement buildings, but that doesn’t bother me. That’s where I’ve come to. London’s always did [sic] this.
I’m not lazy about it. I accept evolution keeps turning. You need to get on with it, rather than fight it. Get on board and affect it, rather than fight it, in a direction you want. That’s why I’m on the committee, too. There were only two people who attended the new development meetings, and I’m a tenant registered in a bedroom– not even a leaseholder, and yet I showed up, and I asked how many applied from Trellick for this meeting, it’s just two, that says a lot too, if you’re asked about community, you’d think all the leaseholders would be in attendance given that something’s going to get built in front of their building, but that’s how it is, what can you do? It’s strange but– it’s easy to complain, that’s an energy people should invest in advance, and there’d be less complaining if they, were more constructive about their– but the comments, how they approach things I guess but–
I come from a farming background, so I’m an outdoors person and it’s in my blood just to be out, and I’ve grown up– spent my life on a building site, so it’s not a biggie for me, you’re not doing anything exceptional by being involved in these things, in my repertoire anyway, it suits me. I feel it’s only right that I should be there, because I have an interest in architecture, I’ve lived here 20 years of them, in building and design for 30 years, so I will ask the questions that should be asked, rather than accept what I’m told.
There’s more work to be done, but the wheels do turn fast, and equally, just by doing this little music event, it might even set the seed of something else that somebody else can embrace, maybe try and retain, because I don’t do IT, I just don’t it’s not me, I’m a carpenter, I’ll build your wardrobes, but I don’t send emails, that’s it, I could, but it’ll take a lot of head space to manage to save the wall, if someone did do that, but I couldn’t, because that would get a lot of attention.
Then I don’t have the ability or the means to manage that, so sadly this is not a lose, (??) but then I’m thinking on the back, of doing a little social family project there, someone may pick up on that and develop something that’s more accessible for the way to public, and just claim the space. It’s like– what was that skate park? Southbank skate park, It had a reprieve because it was the biggest building application that had the most rejections in the history of this country at 30,000 rejections, people opposed to it, to its use of change, which is great.
It just demonstrates that the public can affect public planning if they’re aware of what’s happening, I’m sure if I stood down go below the stall, and just talking to you now makes me think about it, on a Saturday with lots of pictures and just spoke to passing public, does this appeal to you? What do you think of it? Do you want to support it? and that’s what happens. Back they just sat outside and my daughter and I signed it, that’s how you get to 30,000, by putting your pen to paper.
If I had more IT skills and time, that’s something I would do, but I’m not able to do that in the present, I couldn’t but, who knows, someone may step up to that, and then there would be a fighting chance. It’s not just about the graffiti, it’s 1a space for children to develop their imagination, that’s the thing, you get lazy just looking at the screen, things are done for you, you’re being entertained, but rather than the trade-off between– when you’re around kids is give and take, give and take, I hate you today, I love you tomorrow, you go through all these developments that matter to social skills, which you won’t get indoors, you don’t.
Too many parents have bought their child a screen for the bedroom, come on, that’s like putting a fridge of sweets into your bedroom, it’s just a negative outcome. Your bedroom is a place to rest, your lounge it’s where you watch something, [unintelligible 00:54:38] to play, all these things. As a builder/designer on my own little way, I’m very aware of the value of a home and how it affects people.
The outside part is relevant– as, say you own on a car, you pay to park it somewhere, well if you’ve got children, you need that bit of outdoor space for them to let off steam, you have to walk your dog twice a day at least, do the parents take their children out twice a day? They don’t, that’s sadly, they don’t. Animals get recognition like that, but that’s the sad thing, if that’s taken and parents are not given the option, that’s the word, option, that then you have to keep a kid.
Because as carpenter, one of my main likes, is children’s furniture, because I grew up on a farm, and I was able to go back to the tool shed, make go-karts and go to the to the dump, and when we cleared all the rubbish and the landfill up in the hills, which is naughty, I just say, that’s what happened, I’d get ply wheels, an old plastic seat to feel the better, and I made a little go-kart.
My hands– we were using tools as a kid, and here you can’t. I think a child should enjoy their bedroom, she make fun– it’s just colorful, when you open the door something else moves, different fabrics, my ex-partner Deborah is very good at making a children’s cart a place of interest, at seven o’clock we put our son in the cart, he didn’t object, this is a play area that he slowly nodded off, and then just talked to me great it worked.
I picked that up from her, but equally a bedroom, she wanted to go back to the bedroom after they’ve had their dinner or a meal with a friend, furniture doesn’t have to be boxes with doors, you’ve got apertures and then a sloping level, you can do stuff that just it’s for the Child, it’s not an adult version of children. If you look up children’s furniture, it’s appalling, it’s commercial, blue for him, pink for her, no imagination, it’s very limited what to find online.
I’ve felt that for years, that’s just on a localized level within a building, yet the other parts are as relevant, because you take that imagination in out or equal if you’re playing out for [unintelligible 00:57:24] bring that imagination into your bedroom as a child, and you can reenact what you had at six years old, I’m talking as a parent, I think these things matter, and a world of silence where people are just pressing buttons, I mean banks it did do a fantastic print on the wall with the romantic couple looking over each other shoulders at the phone, he’s ahead of his game, is going to be a lot of socials issues with children, just because they don’t communicate on a healthy level.
They’re on all these websites but they don’t know many friends, you’re friends by spending time at someone’s company, not virtual communication. We’re losing these things that have a value, that’s how it sums it up, we’re losing these things of value, not everyone can afford the alternative, which is taking to swimming pool, going to the seminar, going out for a meal, going for a holiday, driving to the course, or taking it to a festival, not everyone has that choice, thus these places matter.
Interviewer: Why do you think people don’t appreciate?
Shan: The pace of the city can wear you out by five or six, and then is, get in make some food, watch some telly, let others entertain the rest of your day, we’re now in a media state rather than a family state, you did sit around the table eating your food, 30 years ago, because not everyone had a TV, or phones ringing as they ate their food and they weren’t texting a friend rather than talking to the parents. You even got less interaction among families, even when they sit at the table, they’re looking over someone’s shoulder at the TV, “excuse me mom blah, blah.”
They’re not having a one to one anymore, and that’s critical to the development of children, that some other guy I spoke with [unintelligible 00:59:52] absolutely, you’re right, a kitchen table is one of the most important things in a family’s life. could roll off running around doing stuff and that’s the one hour you’re within touching distance and comment of each other and yes you resolve things you ask things in you sort things out at the table, yes not in different bedrooms with your own screen that’s the same.
Yes, maybe I’m getting old but that’s what happens when 50 years you start to notice things that you didn’t see in your youth, so it’s important trying can retain things of value I might say because so when we build on this ball court and this meanwhile gardens what do we do then you know at some point we’ve lost everything and then what’s the value of the places you have to start some point and we can’t keep building on top of ourselves because yes I mean as much as interesting as Hong Kong is it’s not a place [unintelligible 01:01:11].
It’s a very dense sort of footprint and the problem of London a part — and its beauty is that it’s really a historical town, it says all these routes are thousand year old lanes and 500 year old lanes. They’re all old old right of way’s it’s not — even though we’ve eight million people we’re in a massive village really gone it’s a massive village. If you’re look at the [unintelligible 01:01:44] as opposed to modern cities which is a thoroughfare that drives straight through you can drive into town, sharpen your out of town in 20 minutes.
London takes you an hour to come in half an hour to park another hour to leave, so and you’re drained by the experience so London doesn’t necessarily need more people stacked upon themselves but yes.
Tanya: [unintelligible 01:02:14] guys [unintelligible 01:02:18] is there anything else that you’d like to share? I think you’ve answered all of our questions.
Shan: Well, that’s good I hope it’s useful but yes I don’t mind just writing on and then you just cut what you need.
Interviewer 1: Is there’s something that you would you like us to ask you?
Shan: No, no I mean [unintelligible 01:02:37] away about relic but it’s in my blood I’ll defend it because when I moved in here to the — a negative opinion by a lot of people who haven’t even been in it or around it, I’m just somebody — even our own Instagram I was in the Trellick page I have him say, “Oh I’m so ugly but I love going into it,” I just saw like using the reverse language here I hate to look with it I love being in it.
Except so there’s a very mixed bag but that to me it’s very easy to disregard it without the facts, so I swear I’m happy to speak on behalf of it because I know the fact being on committee for the right reasons because it’s my home it’s not about having a title, it’s my home or I want to do my best buy it and yes I will defend it that’s really we’re quite happy to speak about it, it is worth my time yes.
Tanya: We really appreciate us alone giving us your time to speak about the time.
Shan: You’re doing a good thing I’m pleased you’re here, this is important too because Trellick will change and then people will be retrospectively asking, “Well how did that happen and do you know who was there and what image.” You’re in the present time language what I like as things are happening are not leaving until it’s all done and dusted, do you know it’s yes I respect what you guys do I do that’s why I’m here, mutual it’s mutual yes and thank you for letting me have my say.
Tanya: [unintelligible 01:04:23] trying to spell your name that’s okay.
Shan : Well I arrived in London 30 years ago and my name’s Shan O’Donell, it’s John O’Donnell on the birth cert, John Joseph Mary because my mother saw this name would be good at the gates of heaven which I may never get to, name dropping it’s good. John Joseph Mary it’s on my birth cert and I come from a [unintelligible 01:04:51] in Ireland where we speak Gilead.
John translates into Shan where I live Shin or Shan there’s a silent h, because my name’s SEA, father like an cute in French so you pronounce the [unintelligible 01:05:06] Shan but when people see it written and even when I said Shan I was Shawn. I got tired explaining it but now I want my name back after 30 years because all I’ve got is my accent, and my name.
When you leave home that you end up with your accent and your name the two things that define you and your manner probably, but the more obvious things and yes I want my name back so now I misspell it, S-H-A-N [unintelligible 01:05:39] so it seems [unintelligible 01:05:41] so I started writing that on the wall in graffiti, I’ve used graffiti to help establish my name again again. Because writers will they won’t write their name I’ve done the reverse I do want my name back I’m going to put it up on the wall in colors.
That’s being cathartic and good for me that’s drawn into, but yes it’s as I say it’s [unintelligible 01:06:05] and I love that unusual — it’s unusual to my part of the world northwest on the goal it’s just the way a Newcastle guy would see a second stuff into a cockney. Different to Liverpool different to Swansea, all in English different accent lilt or as we say in Gaelic Blass. This —
Tanya: [unintelligible 01:06:26] process as well.
Shan: We’ll pass to fit in to your MM LL and all means off in English I shall of the Donald’s or Mac is also sung so this is just off [unintelligible 01:06:42].
Tanya:Could we have when and where you born please?
Shan: General Hospital in Donegal 30 miles from the village of Volterra on the coast which is the northwest corner and if you look at the map I’m effectively looking at it Iceland yes so the beaches are cooler there unless used I just try and just quill you can take a car down there put a twelve-year-old behind the wheel and let them drive they can’t hit anything in the tape zone.
It’s where we all learn to drive its grades so you know that’s and that’s cool and it’s the first thing I do when I go tired and I’ll go to the beach and just listen to the tiny the acoustics of nature it’s fantastic so that’s why I really appreciate having a canal and the value of that next to my flat it’s something I don’t need to explain it i just love cycling over the bridges on the Thames just that act of two minutes of water in my life don’t know what it is but it works yes.
Tanya: What year were you born?
Shan: 65, thank you all for listening to me ramblings —
[01:08:26] [END OF AUDIO]
Sue: After and before they vote, they lived the longest over there. Must be something they’re doing right [laughter].
Interviewer: I tell you what, the easiest one to start with is, if you can imagine that I’ve never seen the Trellick tower before, I’ve never seen the Cheltenham Estate before. I don’t even know where we are. Could you describe-
Sue: Cheltenham Estate is this supposed to be called…
Interviewer: No, I know. Yes.
Sue: I never knew that.
Interviewer: It incorporates Edenham Way and…
Sue: Oh, does it. Never taken notice.
Interviewer: If you could describe the area to me, in your own words. What’s it like? How can we build a picture of it?
Sue: Okay. Well, Trellick Tower is really, really famous. You can Google it, to start with. To visualize it. It’s 30 story building, with residents. The only one of a kind at the moment. The balconies all face South-facing, I think, to let the sun in most of the day. All the bedrooms look over the canal. There’s a lovely big roof up there but, no one is allowed to go up there. I managed it one day, so I was quite happy about that. I done a dive? — what do you call them things? I abseiled down it, so I was having a quick look while I was up there. [laughs]
Interviewer: Tell me about that then? Tell me, why you were doing that and what that was like?
Sue: My friends said “Oh look, Sue, they’re going to abseil down Trellick. Let’s put our names down” so we said “yes, yes” and apparently when it was filling in the form online and said they want a deposit and everything from us and we’d have to go to the doctors to get a medical certificate. Then we just frizzled out, thought well can’t be arsed with all that. I woke up one day and I could hear loads of girls screaming and I’m on the other side and this side, here, millions of girls were downstairs and I think it was Diversity, the five boys?
I come down to look and they were being interviewed and they were going to start it off. I heard someone else saying “Oh, they’ve still got spaces down there”. I thought “Oh wow, I’m going to go down”. So, I just went to lower ground and I said “Oh, can I do it? ” and they just said “Yes”. They didn’t ask for a doctor’s letter or anything. I thought “Oops, but I’m not walking out 30 stories to just do that as well as come down.” I said, “I’ll get in the lift” [laughs] and they were so glad.
And then up the top “Oh my gosh” it was really, really high. And I thought “Oh God”. I come over and I can’t reach to put my legs on the side to the wall because you have to lean really back and put your legs on the wall. I’m thinking “I can’t reach the wall” I’m saying “Will I die?” he’s going “No, no go down. Go down” so then I thought “Oh, god, I started going slowly, slowly.” And everyone was just jumping big steps. I thought “Oh no”. I thought “Oh my God, I gotta hold my weight”. I never knew things like that, you have to hold your own weight, and then I forgot which hand I had to do.
“Is it this one, do I let go there, will I fall with this one?” I was coming down, and I could hear a lot of my friends screaming. I thought “Oh God”. I’m looking how far down and then, I could see that one of the soldiers was coming down and I thought “Oh, maybe he’ll stop by me” but I’m going “Help, help” [laughs] and he just went whizzing past [laughs]. So anyway, I managed to get down and lie on the floor for 10 minutes. I went upstairs and had a headache for 4 hours [laughs]. That was my excitement for the day but we did raise money. Yeah, I got money.
Interviewer: Are you quite the thrill seeker?
Sue: I was then. It all depends on what it is. I am impulsive. When my son went to Thailand about 7, 8 years ago, and he come [sic] back and he was in with the lions and everything on the elephants and all that. I said, “Ooh, I wouldn’t mind that”. We went back and he took everywhere he went and there was a big enclosure where the lions were out of their cages. We went in there, pictures with the lions. Me lying over a lion, it must have been on Thailand air, or something.
Then it started thundering and lightning, and I thought, “Oh my God, they’re going to jump up and go mad” but they didn’t. We had some nice photos in there with these and played with the little ones in a separate bit. We went on the elephants through the jungle. I had a really good time there. I really want to go to India now.
Interviewer: Just to go back to the view, the abseiling down Trellick, can you describe the view up there, what’s it like?
Sue: Oh, it’s massive.
Interviewer: How does it make you feel?
Sue: You’re really on top of everywhere. It’s a mass — sorry — everywhere you go–
Interviewer: If we start that bit again, just because we — obviously we will pick up.
Sue: It’s like being on…it’s like the top of the world up there. Looking all the way around, it’s like “Wow, everything is — you can see exactly everything you wanted”. I didn’t get too long up there, they were shoving me down the sides. My son took a couple of pictures, really nice. It’s a great building to live in.
Interviewer: Let’s talk more about that then. When did you first move to Trellick? What happened? How long you’ve lived here?
Sue: I’ve lived here 44 years. I moved in when it opened, 1972. I come [sic] for the interview and into one of the flats, and the porter said “Oh”, when I went to pick up my keys. “Oh, where’s your mom?” so I said, “No, it’s me.” He said “What?”. I said “No, it’s me. I’m getting a flat.” He gave me the keys, I went up with my daughter and it was like “Wow” something you’ve never seen before. It was really out of this world flats like that. Quick, race down there, “Yes, I’ll take that. I’ll take that”. It was really good. Nice, clean, new. When we come [sic] to see this, we got off at Westbourne Park Station, and you couldn’t come left, you had to go right, around the back of the houses.
By the time you turn around this corner, and you looked up it was like “Wow”. So you’re in Dubai, looking at the first great big tower. “Wow, look at that” and it was nice weather so it made it 10 times better. It was just really, really, really-everyone wanted to move in. I think they still do. So many people still want to move in there.
Interviewer: I’m going to ask you a bit about that and about why Trellick is still a successful community. Can you tell me a little bit more about your life around that time, and about why and how you were able to qualify for a flat here. What was the circumstances?
Sue: I had my daughter at 18 and I managed to get a flat down East London, where I was from, there were flats for so long you could keep them until they put you on the next level of flats. This was by the Rotherhithe Tunnel, just the back of it, flats there. When I got moved, I moved to Clapton, E5 isn’t it? By Springfield Park and Hackney, and all round there. So, I think I was there for five years.
I had a bath in the kitchen. Somehow, I managed to get it moved up there, how, I don’t know if they were going to knock that block down or what. They said “Where do you want to move to?” and I didn’t know anywhere so I just said, “Oh, Richmond?” Not that I know it, Paddington and somewhere else. And then this offer come [sic] up. I thought well, I didn’t want to see no other offers. Yes, this was it. It’s really been great. I didn’t even know Portabello was round the next corner, for about, 6 months? [laughs]. I just went into this road, that was it — school’s straight there. Got my daughter in school straight away. Everything was great, everything was just great.
Interviewer: Tell me about what happened next, because my understanding is that Trellick went through some difficult years. Where there was a problem with antisocial behaviour before there was a concierge at the door.
Interviewer: Could you talk me through — just take me back to that point, just then when you said everything was great? What happened?
Interviewee: I just think lots of — because there was no one on the door, everyone used to come in and out, do drugs on the stairs. A lot of places were robbed upstairs. Someone threw a safe over the balcony because they couldn’t open it and it hit off my balcony and it, “boing” when I’m lying down the sofa, Oh God, If it had gone in, it would have killed me. There’s quite a lot of crime.
Interviewer: Could you just — probably, we’ll use this part as well in the film. I just need a connecting thought between those two. You said, you come here and it’s gorgeous and we want to live there, could you connect those two thoughts with something in your own words that says things started to get difficult. You talked about the present, just something, a little sentence there.
Sue: From being really really nice, it just started going downhill. People were just coming in and out. They never lived there. Bashing on doors, using it to come in and kip — lots of things that they shouldn’t be doing. Knocking on the door to see if anyone’s in, no well right, bash that door in and get stuff out of there. Sleeping on the stairs, the back stairs, jacking up on the back stairs, and there was a terrible incident that I shouldn’t go into, but something happened to a young girl in one of the lifts when she was taking the rubbish, I don’t really need to go any further. I know that family moved out. It’s really bad, you didn’t know who you was getting in the lift with or who was coming out to follow you. We had to get something done about that but–
Interviewer: What happened down the lifts?
Sue: I wasn’t involved in any of the meetings or anything. I was like, still young. I didn’t want to be at meetings, old people things. People that were in charge must have sat down and got it sorted maybe in the club room. We did have one woman and man who did start off being in the tenant’s association. She used to come around once a year for a pound. I don’t know where she put it [laughs]. He’d have his big fag, the husband beside her, it cost about two quid for a fag them cigars. I think they gathered bits up and then they put a porter on the door, in a little shed.
Like that side when you go in, a pipe room. A porter stood there for few years until they decided to make a proper reception area. All the people that were working on it, lived in the block, so that made it so much easier because they knew who lived here and who didn’t. That really made it easy. And oh, “So and so is looking for you.” Then one day, my friend phoned me, she was on reception and said “Sue”, I went “What?” she says — oh no, I can’t tell you this bit, sorry. [laughs] But anyway, I’ve just fell in. Another thing she says “Sue, quick the TV licence people are on their way up, don’t be in.” [laughs] This was another thing, but yes it was like that. It was really good.
Interviewer: So, after the porter announced that, and the reception and concierge, did life change? Did it get better?
Sue: Yes, it got better. You felt safe leaving your property. We felt relieved when we went out that the house would still be there and not touched, or anything. Because they knew you, they could give you messages “Oh, you’re friend came up today. I told her you weren’t in” It was more like family. I did like it when the proper people lived in the block. They still lived in the block, that worked there. But we got all outsiders now.
Interviewer: I’ll come to that. Just on that last question, just because I have a couple more questions, just because I’ve cut my question out of the film, would you give me a full sentence beginning of that so, in your own words, something like “life got better after there was a concierge at the door.” Do you see what I mean? Something like that. Is that okay?
I think the sentence began with it, so which won’t make sense if I pop my question there. So I’ll ask the question again quickly. What happened to life in Trellick, after the concierge came on the door?
Sue: Life got so much better. You could go out knowing that your place wasn’t going to be turned over. Friends who — if they come to Trellick, they would know, the reception would know where you were and say “No, they’re not in. They’ll be in later” pass messages on. We got doors fixed on the balconies themselves. We had intercom doors put on the separate balconies, as well down the front. So it was double secure. It was so much nicer. I think everyone moved on, the crimes seemed to drop. It was better for all of us. Yes, much better. You see more happy faces in the lifts. Yes, it was better.
Interviewer: So now then it still seems to become a private community, how would you describe it working now?
Sue: It seems to work all right. We’ve got, I don’t know how many different people live in the block, ethnic people. Could be as much as about 40, 50 different types of people? Who just all seem to get on. We either, don’t talk or we talk, we all just get in the lift. We don’t have to speak because we just press the button. Some people do — some people, it all depends. The lifts are good, there’s three of them so you can always — one’s always out on the weekends, for some reason, but yes, you can get a lot of us in the lift, about 20 of us, before you shut the door. “Quick, let’s get that lift. Quick, push one more to get in there. Quick, we’ve got to wait two more minutes for another one, get in that one.”
It’s so much better. And we all get on in our own ways. You don’t have to speak anyone else’s language, you just do a nod, “Hello. Yes, okay”, so many people come and go here. It’s like the other day, I was chatting with a girl on my floor and she had two kids and I said “You live up here?” and she’s “Yes.” I said “Oh, how long have you been here?” she went “Six years” on my floor. Because she’s passed me she’s down on that end, I thought “Oh, Okay then.” People do move in and out just as quick.
My neighbour moved out and she’d been there same as me but we never spoke. She was one of those women who never spoke, she was one of those women that never spoke to you and I didn’t even know she’d moved. So that’s 43 years. Next door neighbour doesn’t speak to you. But a lot of people do come and go. I had a friend, when he come to visit me here years ago, he said, “I must get a flat in here.” I lost contact with him. Then, one day I was doing a computer course, he was my teacher and I still didn’t know it was him. And we were walking home here one day and I says “Oh, I’m going up” and he says “I live up there” and I went “What?” I looked at him and I went “What’s your name?” and he said “Lee” and I went “Oh my God, I know you don’t I?” “Oh yeah”. That’s how we met up again, just completely forgot him.
Interviewer: There’s the connection there–
Sue: Yes, he is happy. He did actually get what he wanted. He managed it. A lot of people do.
Interviewer: Just two very quick last questions. The first one is, It’s about the space out here, about the graffiti wall — what does that space mean to the people here, do you think? What does it mean to you?
Sue: I think it’s great space for the grafitti. It’s not harming anyone, it’s out of the way, If I want to look at it, look out the window and you can see it. They’re not rowdy or nothing, it’s quite a good place.+
Interviewer: What do you think it means to the young people as well, especially to kids?
Sue: They’ve got a little football next door, haven’t they. So they can go on from football to graffiti if they like. Before when, we used to have an upper floor with a little park in it, the walkway’s connected over the football pitch, there was a little part there with a slide, grass and a little seating area. That was quite nice.
Interviewer: What do you think it would be like without that?
Sue: I don’t know now, because I don’t know how far they’re building the new places. How far up. I seen the plans but it still doesn’t actually show you. And I think they are saying, we can’t enjoy the park that they are going to put there now, even though it’s our space, but the new people in the old buildings will enjoy some park life at the front. I don’t we’ll take no notice of that.
If we wanna go park, we’ll go park. It’s taking so long, we’ve been talking this about six, seven years, nothing gets started instantly around here. We would still be talking about this place in five years, I don’t know if it’ll be done by then. We’ll just have to wait and see, won’t we?
Interviewer: Last question, can you describe then what this area means to you? What life would be like without it, generally? Imagine this is the part of the film where we’re zooming out, so you can speak about it, in a general sense, what does it mean to you?
Sue: Say that again, I didn’t get that.
Interviewer: What does this estate mean to you, if you were describing it to someone–?
Sue: It’s great because you’ve got everything here, everything is on your doorstep. You couldn’t actually move to a better central place. Everything you want is here, the doctors, the laundry, the pharmacist, you’ve got it all. Glasses shop, library, these coffee shops along here, you don’t have to move. Once you’re outside Trellick it’s just this road and it’s just made, then you got the famous market just further down.
New village being opened up around the corner. When I come home, and I first see the building every night, you go “Oh yeah, that’s me, that’s where I live.” You often see people looking up or taking photos and you think “Yep, live in there. Yep, that’s me.”
Interviewer: How close do you think then that is to Goldfinger’s original vision, Do you think he would be happy with it?
Sue: He would have been very happy, I reckon.
Interviewer: Could you turn that into a sentence with Goldfinger’s name?
Sue: I think Goldfinger would be very proud, he would really, to see it — he’d be turning in his grave otherwise. Yes, he’d love it. I don’t know what the other buildings do, I think it was sold off and it was all private now.
Interviewer: Balfron? I think it’s certainly got a bigger percentage of private blocks than Trellick has.
Sue: Yes. There is a few people in here that own their places, but I don’t know who.
Interviewer: There’s still three quarters that don’t I think (???)
Sue: Yes, must be.
Interviewer: Thank you so much.
Sue: That’s okay.
Interviewer: One last possible thing to ask you, which is just going back to Trellick Tower. I’d quite like to just get one shot of you, no sound, just on our camera, just looking up at the towers.
Interviewer: It will just take about 5 minutes.
[00:23:41] [END OF AUDIO]