Estate of Play

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Estate of Play – Restoring, sharing and celebrating social housings’ history




SPID (Social, Political, Innovative, Direct) Theatre Company has launched their £2.4million capital project Estate of Play. Project funders include the Mayor of London, and the National Lottery through the Big Lottery Fund and the Heritage Lottery Fund (HLF). The charity is currently fundraising for the remaining £500000.

Deputy Mayor for Planning, Regeneration and Skills, Jules Pipe, said: “The Estate of Play project is a great example of how the Mayor’s Good Growth Fund supports initiatives which help foster stronger communities. S.P.I.D. Theatre Company is creating an important space where local people can come together and where skills can be learned and shared in the years ahead.”

Kensal House estate

Kensal House is significant as an illustrative example of interwar Modernism recognised as an experimental model for a social housing scheme. In particular, the inclusion of the community rooms below the east and west blocks, the nursery and the use of the adjacent land as allotments led to the project being referred to on its completion as an ‘urban village’. It also represents changing political and social awareness as well as attitudes to domesticity and recreation, amenities, self-sufficiency within the genre of an estate.

SPID is working with Studio Sam Causer to restore, refurbish and expand SPID’s base to make it both fit for modern use and an embodiment of the modernist vision shared by architects Maxwell Fry and social reformer Elizabeth Denby.

A new visitors entrance will make the arrival point more inviting and easier to find.  SPID will create an enclosed sloping corridor offering separate access to the hall, back stage area and new workshop room for all visitors, including those with disabilities. The corridor will let in fresh light to the community rooms, as will replacing all non original windows with full length windows.  The kitchen space at the back will be opened out, as will the office, by removing non original partitions.  A drainage cavity will be installed between the community rooms’ ceiling and the floors of flats below to protect against future leaks.  The community rooms’ heating and electrics will be replaced and new equipment installed.

The project will also enable young people in particular to explore the heritage of the estate and social housing. They will have the chance to build new skills, take part in mentorships and help to build an archive of stories and testimonies.

SPID Theatre

S.P.I.D. (Social Political Innovative Direct) Theatre are based in the historic Kensal House estate 10 minutes from Grenfell Tower. After 12 years based in Kensal House estates’ neglected community rooms, the funding has been made possible by a 25 year low rent lease from Kensington council. SPID’s estate refurbishment is part of their  Grenfell Matters campaign fights to ensure the victims of the Grenfell fire are not forgotten and did not die in vain. They advocate against the destruction of social housing and fight for increased investment in estates and to improve rights for those who live and work there. 

SPID specialises in high quality community art for council estates. Their work takes the form of off-stage events that are participatory, adventurous and interactive. They young people together with older residents to dramatise the history of estates through interactive  performances, radio shows, films, oral histories and exhibitions. Their ground breaking Living History projects have been documented by the BBC, ITV and in National press. The show The Burning Tower, which dramatises the history of social housing and of Grenfell, runs at Kensal House until Oct 6 in association with Bush Theatre.

Contact: Helena Thompson, Artistic Director, 07828441347

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