Reality Gap
Reality Gap by Millie Guest

It often seems as if no stone has been left unturned in documenting the history of Hackney’s famous Woodberry Down Estate.

But just when you thought all the stories had been told, a self-proclaimed “diaspora of punks” who once squatted on the estate are adding their voices to the choir with an upcoming exhibition on its regeneration, entitled “They’ve Taken our Ghettos: A Punk History of the Woodberry Down Estate.”

This mixed-media show will comprise of etchings, comics, photographs and graphics and will be exhibited in the gallery space of Craving Coffee, an independent coffee shop in Tottenham recently partnered with social enterprise scheme the Mill Co. Project.

Woodberry Down’s colossal overhaul, which has seen one of the borough’s poorest housing estates transform into a mixed-tenure development with flats for sale at over £1million, prompted former squatter Rebecca Binns to coordinate an artistic response to the changing landscape.

Contributors include graphic designer Kieran Plunkett, etcher Joe Ryan, whose submission examines the relationship between institutions and control and Mik Insect, comic artist, tattooist and guitarist in punk-squat band Coitus. All three squatted on Woodberry Down in the late eighties and early nineties.

A collage entitled Reality Gap, which depicts Rebecca Binns in her first squat in a Haringey tower block aged 17 has also been submitted by web designer Millie Guest.

Mobocracy by Kieron Plunkett
Mobocracy by Kieron Plunkett

Binns, who is a PhD candidate at University of the Arts London, researching the work of anarcho-punk band member and artist Gee Vaucher, told the East End Review she wanted to commemorate the estate’s alternative history “before it changes beyond recognition”.

The title “they’ve taken our ghettos” is drawn from the title of one of Joe Ryan’s etchings. “I think it is meant to be a bit ironic,” explains Binns. “It was hard then. We stayed in houses unfit to live in and were moved on a lot. I guess Joe is reflecting on the fact that while they were far from ideal homes they provided something very important – a sense of community and freedom.”

Like many asked to pass judgement on the redevelopment of Woodberry Down, Binns is ambivalent. She raises familiar concerns such as the management of the estate’s deterioration, residents’ unhappiness at the lack of social cohesion in the estate’s new ‘two-tier’ social structure and anger that leaseholders were not reimbursed at market rate for their properties.

Conquest, Colonisation and Social Cleansing
Conquest, Colonisation and Social Cleansing by Joe Ryan

But Binns concedes that the council has “made an effort for it not to be a wholesale sell-off” and says it has tried to provide a decent component of social housing.

Following the Manor House Development Trust’s ‘memory bank’ exhibition and extensive media coverage on the council’s flagship scheme, Binns hopes the show will give voice to the estate’s radical past.

“I thought it would be a good idea to commemorate the alternative history of the estate. Ours is a different narrative,” she says.

“They’ve Taken our Ghettos: A Punk History of the Woodberry Down Estate” is at Craving Coffee, The Mill Co. Project, Gaunson House, N15 4QQ until 26 July 

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